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The importance of religion as a general publics way of life religion and political perspectives

This has been a phenomenon all over the ages and different political contexts. Politicians utilise religion in order to gain political goals. This paper wants to investigate the reasons why religion is such an effective instrument within politics.

The investigation is as much a historical investigation as it is descriptive. After careful analysis of contexts, a deduction is made to reach an understanding of the reasons for the political use of religion. The author identified through investigating two examples i.

The author consciously decided not to investigate the relationship between Islam and politics as different elements play a role in such considerations.

At times there was a total separation between the two. At times the interconnectedness caused the two spheres to be inseparable. In cases of inseparability the hierarchy of the two was interchangeable.

This relationship between religion and politics should however be understood contextually. Religious considerations have been part of political decisions ever since humans governed themselves. At times political decisions were based on consultations and advice received from the H holy via the words of prophets and priests.

At times religious leaders would oppose decisions taken by political leaders.

Extensive research has been done by Fox 2008 as to the different ways in which government and religion engage. Over centuries there have been examples of all three possibilities. The dualistic understanding of human existence might have contributed to the disparity between religion and politics. Humans are in nature created matter. But humans are of dual nature: Humans are not only matter, but spirit as well.

Plato pointed to this dual human existence: Socrates explored this idea further and suggested compare in Phaedo that the body is of lesser value. The soul is of superior value and worth engaging with Russell 2010: This anti-material position created an aversion for anything encountered through the senses.

All material matter is there only to sustain the human body. There is no intrinsic value in matter. The spirit is of superior value. Religion belongs to the domain of spiritual activities and politics are relegated to earthly and material existence. Since Socrates' division of human existence in spiritual and material spheres, with the spiritual as being the superior faculty, a struggle for dominance between religion and politics ensued, causing politics and religion to alternate as dominant power, as Moyser 1991: A clear understanding of what is meant by politics and religion is necessary.

Politics refer to the collective decision making process to the benefit of a large group of people mostly a nation that reside in a particular environment Moyser 1991: Politics therefore refer to a process and not an entity. In order for the process to proceed, the mechanism of politics requires certain components.

  • The second element to bear in mind is the political demarcation between major religions in South Africa;
  • Princeton University Press, 2006.

These components contribute to the peaceful functioning of a society. A letter of agreement, such as a constitution, determines the basis on which the society agrees to function. To enforce the responsibilities and rights of all members of society, an independent judicial system sees to the application of the regulations. One of the elective components contributing to the process of politics can be religion.


Religion is part of the heritage of a people. A nation is a group of people sharing the same history and culture Moyser 1991: Part of the communal identity of a nation is religion. Religion can become a way in which a nation expresses its identity Moyser 1991: A definition of religion is difficult.

The phenomenon religion existed long before the category 'religion' was created during the Enlightenment period in order to study the human behaviour indicated as religion.

Religion consists of several constituting elements. Religion is a social, psychological and material concept relating man to transcendence Moyser 1991: The nature of religion is to connect man to the sacred.

Compare in this regard the position taken by Durkheim 1912Berger 1967 and Eliade 1957. The sacred is elevated qualitatively above the profane. This brings about the understanding that the sacred is the higher authority to be called upon in moments of despair and uncertainty. The sacred is perceived to be of autonomous and sovereign nature subjecting politics to the domain of the profane.

A political system can even be portrayed as existing based on sacred selection compare a sovereign reigning based on divine decree. In extreme cases the state can be presented as existing autonomously, sanctioned by a divine power.

Religion is perceived to present the core values of society Moyser 1991: Politics once again becomes relative to religion Moyser 1991: Politics however can become the superior institution exercising power even over religion. Political policies can for example govern the extent of influence religion can exercise over society.

Religion as social and communal activity causes religion as well as politics to be viewed as possessing a communal character. It is necessary to clearly state in the onset of this research what element of religion will be the focus. Religion consists of behaviour as well as convictions Fox 2008: As it is difficult to determine what it is that people believe, it is easier to investigate the expressions i. This study then focusses on the religious words and actions of politicians.

The true quest will be to determine the reasons behind such actions and words. In Africa in particular, religion as such is an uncommon concept. No separation between the sacred transcendence and profane spheres exists. Holism implies a connection of everything 1. Everything has to do with what is known as religion compare Moyser 1991: Culture and religion in Africa are intertwined.

U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious

Moyser's conclusion is that religion and politics in a pre-modern society served the same goal. Political considerations were based on religious considerations Moyser 1991: The position of religion in an African context, represents that of a pre-modern society.

The relationship between religion and politics in pre-modern society can be described as follows Moyser 1991: The sacred is present in social institutions Laws are divine commands Social classes are arranged hierarchically, as determined by divine order Education is religious Economic behaviour is regulated by the sacred Government is sacral Religion and government is an integrated system The communal aspect brings about the feeling of group solidarity.

It then is obvious that religion can contribute to the nationalistic ideals of leaders. This will be expounded on later in this study. Religion is a system of beliefs with leaders maintaining and governing the body of those affiliated to the religion. The domains of religion and politics share this similarity that it consists of a group of people making decisions based on certain considerations. The decisions are enforced by the leaders of the communities. At times the decisions overlap and at times the decisions may diverge, resulting in conflict.

Thus, two domains exist, each with its own agenda, system, decisions and leaders. A struggle for power between politics and religion seems inevitable. Asking to the relationship between religion and politics is determined by whom you ask. The politician and religious leader will give different answers as will the secularist.

Secularisation has had an effect on the prominence of religion in society. Religion has experienced a loss of power in society due to the increase of secularisation. This study subscribes to Casanova's 1994 definitions of secularisation. According to Casanova there are several theories of secularisation: Secularisation as differentiation refers to the dualistic understanding of a separate domain for the secular and a separate domain for the sacred.

Historically within a Western tradition the church as the mediator between the two spheres had the social power. During the process of secularization the state as the secular power started dominating the scene and resulted in religion being reduced to only one sphere subordinate to the power of the state.

  • University of California Press, 2000;
  • The British Journal of Sociology, London, v;
  • The presence of Islam and of Muslims in Europe, although essentially not a new phenomenon, is therefore questioned by the nation-states, by confronting the official curriculum and the regulated education with the social curriculum, strongly influenced by Islam among its followers;
  • Politics refer to the collective decision making process to the benefit of a large group of people mostly a nation that reside in a particular environment Moyser 1991;
  • There are currently three major religions in Africa:

Secularisation as the decline of the presence of religion is an indication of the subsiding presence of religiosity in society. This is however difficult to measure as it differs from contexts as well as the measuring criteria may differ. It is however clear that sociologists identified that in Europe people gradually grew less interested in religion. Secularisation as privatisation refers to the process whereby religion is relinquished to a private matter in the individual's life having no significance in the public sphere.

This scenario is changing in current times as the discussion on the growing social role of religion in Japan and South Africa will illustrate. The loss of influence by religion on society caused a change in relationship between religion and politics. The effect of religion on society however did not disappear completely Berger 1999: Religion has lately become a growing phenomenon in the private sphere Luckmann 1967or among disadvantaged communities 2.

The effect of secularisation on religion cannot be denied, but there are still instances of growth and renewed influence on politics Moyser 1991: Religious orientations can be linked to ideologies present in politics i.