The Place of Religion in Democracy - An Essay Example

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Boston College
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Religion is a rather old concept when compared with the scientific and political revolutions. Before the development of modern democracies, religion had existed for centuries. Christian religion began in Europe in specifically after the death of Jesus Christ. In other parts of the world, Abrahamic religions had been in existence long before this. Before the Protestant Reformation, Catholicism took a high pedestal in national politics. The Church controlled virtually all the aspects of life. Political leaders had to conform to the requirements of the church if they were to stand against the vehemence of the political battles in Europe and other parts of the world. The Reformation saw the spread of Christian Religion in other parts of the world including North America. By the time United States was being founded, the institution of the church had already covered substantial mileage in nation building. The founding fathers therefore quoted religious tenets often in the political forums. President Reagan was also quoted saying that the government needs the church, because only those humble enough to admit they are sinners can bring democracy the tolerance it requires in order to survive. This statement is true because of the apparent difference in social, economic and political development between the secular and religious societies.

Science and technology are yardsticks through which the explicit achievements are meted, although there is a need to understand the inner being. Many modern economies are a product of scientific innovation that contributed to the industrial production of goods and their sales afterwards. Over the last few years, there has been a lot of emphasis on the study of science and technology at the expense of liberal arts and humanities. Humanities, however, help us to understand our inner selves, and allow for the integration of morality into the social fabric. While talking about democracy and religion, Ronald Reagan had in mind the components of the society that make up effective governance. The respect of the rule of law, participation in elections, civic dutifulness and patriotism are humanity subjects that Kolstad (2) considers central to liberal thinking. Since humanities fundamentally instill these attributes in people, religion is thus important for the maturity of democracy. Religion, as opposed to science, deals with spirituality and the aspect of the unseen. Due to the nature of science, scientific concepts can be falsified, meaning that they are never perfect. On the other side, it is not possible to falsify religion because it deals with faith which is unseen and intangible. In other words, religion promotes perfection.

The maturity of democracy is measured by among other things economic stability and the prosecution of social injustices. When Reagan spoke about the role of religion in enhancing perfection and supporting democracy, I think he foresaw a condition in which people deviated from impunity, and the political institutions discharged their constitutional mandates effectively. North, Oman & Gwin (756) empirically prove a positive relationship between religion and transparency. They further prove that transparency bolsters the growth of the economy, and by extension, conclude that religion is the solution to economic regression. The researchers sample 207 countries around the world and measure their economic potential against the rule of law and corruption. North, Oman & Gwin (756) conclude that secular states have poor economic growth, since the rule of law is not respected. Further, their study shows an irregular association between these variables. Protestantism, they argue, instills the moral law in the society better that Catholicism. In the light of Reagans sentiments, economic stability and accountability are indicators of social perfection, which according to this study are brought about by religion.

The American democracy has seen the light of the day partly because of the efforts of activists like Dr. Revered Martin Luther King Jnr. King made one of the most resounding speeches in history titled I have a Dream. This speech was centered on the ultimate freedom of the marginalized people in the society. Elshatian (7) thinks that Kings dream was a religiously inspired vision of the collective deliverance of an oppressed people. In fact, according to Elshatian (7), King foresaw a democracy that was anchored on religion. He knew that the human mind was vulnerable to corruption by material objects, some which include the thirst for power. He believed that if political leaders consulted religion in the dissemination of their duties to the public, they could have incorporated social justice and desisted oppressing the Afro-Americans. Therefore, religion played a significant role in the growth of democracy in America.

In conclusion, it is true that citizens cannot be perfect without religion. Religion has existed in the US even before the declaration of independence. Some of the founding fathers of the nation were deeply religious and so they consulted the church on several governance matters. There is appropriate evidence to support President Reagans sentiments that citizens need religion to become perfect. Democracy, which is marked by rule of the law and other national virtues, is promoted by religion.


Works Cited

Elshtain, Jean Bethke. "Religion and democracy." Journal of Democracy 20.2 (2009): 5-17.

Kolstad, Hans. "Role of Art, Religion and Morality in Higher Education." RoSEResearch on Steiner Education 7.2 (2017).North, Charles M., Wafa Hakim Orman, and Carl R. Gwin. "Religion, corruption, and the rule of law." Journal of Money, Credit and Banking 45.5 (2013): 757-779.


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