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What makes a religion good or bad

The dangers of generalisation

Our work on the International Panel for Social Progress has led us to conclude that religion is neither inherently pro-democracy nor inherently anti-democracy. Finding ways to live together more freely and responsibly requires a careful look at the specific religions and specific societies in question.

More importantly, it also requires attention to ground-level religious action and religious organisations and not just to theologies and authorities. Enlightenment legacies One can point to anti-democratic examples in many religious traditions. In addition to non-democratic regimes supported by monotheistic world religions, there are autocratic examples that range from Hindu nationalism in India to Buddhist repression of Muslim minorities in Myanmar.

Indeed links between religions and anti-democratic regimes have — at least since the Enlightenment — prompted some thinkers to believe that all religions inculcate intolerance toward alternative views of the world and instil in their followers norms of obedience and deference to authority that are incompatible with democracy and individual liberty.

Would we be better off without religion?

Keeping all religion carefully separate from public life was, it seemed, the best way forward. In different times and places the very same religious tradition has been hailed as inherently a seedbed for democracy and as a danger to it. Lipset argued that democracy requires a political belief system that accommodates competition among ideas, while the Catholic church claims that it alone has the truth.

The Latin American experience is, in fact, a good example of how the involvement of religion in politics is many-sided. The Catholic hierarchy has been a key actor opposing the socialist project of Chavismo, yet a group of Catholic community groups has protested that the hierarchy is not taking the sentiments of its members into account. Interestingly, Neo-Pentecostal Protestants have also supported Chavismo, while more traditional Protestant groups have not.

Thus both de Tocqueville and Lipset were wrong in assigning either democratic or anti-democratic essences to the Catholic faith — or to Protestantism, for that matter. The many-sided grassroots public involvement of both Catholics and Protestants in Venezuela illustrates the need to go beyond generalisations that start with an entire tradition.

Generalised arguments, however, continue to be invoked with respect to other religions — most notably, Islam. Thinkers over several generations have argued that Islam is what makes a religion good or bad inhospitable to democratic government. More recently, political historian Elie Kedourie wrote: The evidence on the ground, however, is mixed.

Is Religion Good or Bad?

Each tradition has ideas and rituals and ways of living that may support or inhibit democracy. People who participate in religious organisations have heightened interest in politics, more trust in institutions, and greater support for democracy. Opportunities within religious groups to speak out, organise, and lead helped people acquire civic skills they could use in democratic participation.

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

  1. Lectures on Quantum Mechanics 2012 [ edit ] Main article. This is not a world in which the separation between religion and science has occurred.
  2. Until it comes to religion. Why is there such a God?
  3. A friend of mine, an Indian friend of mine, went to his grandfather when he was very young, a child, and said to him, "I want to talk to you about religion," and his grandfather said, "You're too young.

In a book published in 2011Rethinking Religion and World Affairs, the authors argued that democracy is more likely to emerge and survive when religious actors are included in transition processes, instead of being viewed as hostile forces to be contained. Including religion will mean paying attention to what religious people do and how they organise, not just to their ideas and theologies or even the pronouncements of religious authorities.

It is important to pay attention to the role that religious groups play in enabling or inhibiting the emergence of democratic political orders.

  • So what I want you to think about next time somebody wants to make some vast generalization about religion is that maybe there isn't such a thing as a religion, such a thing as religion, and that therefore what they say cannot possibly be true;
  • They might be saying something positive or negative, such as;
  • If we look at the outer aspect of religion, we will see imperfections and mistakes in all religions;
  • I think the answer is a pretty simple one and therefore crude and contentious;
  • Frederick Douglass told in his Narrative how his condition as a slave became worse when his master underwent a religious conversion that allowed him to justify slavery as the punishment of the children of Ham;
  • This shows that religion can be a force for good if we only live it in a divine way.

Where there is a lively presence of religious organisations, they are likely to be important in any democratising effort. Such is the case of Dr. Sitting, from left to right: Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese intellectual, revolutionary and founding father of the Republic of China. Wikimedia Religious leaders and religious groups should always be seen against the complexities of each particular context. When Muslims form Islamist political parties, the parties tend to behave like other political parties.

Enlightenment legacies

They are shaped by the conditions they face on the ground. Thus, the overwhelming impression conveyed by these and other cases is that religions or religion in general are neither inherently pro- nor anti-democratic, nor left nor right, nor even for religious freedom or against it. Each situation must be examined on its own terms.

  • His name is the Dalai Lama;
  • They might be saying something positive or negative, such as;
  • So, although the Higgs particle is so heavy that a giant particle collider was needed to create it, we still have to ask, why is the Higgs mass so small?
  • Then we love to argue about words;
  • One of the things that excited me so much about quantum chromodynamics after the work of Gross and Wilczek and Politzer was that it seemed to provide a rational explanation for what had always been mysterious to me — the fact that there were symmetries, like parity conservation, charge conjugation invariance, and strangeness conservation, that were very good symmetries of the strong and electromagnetic interactions — as far as we knew exact — and yet were not respected by the weak interactions;
  • He's a god who will...