Politics and Religion: inseparable?

Politics seeks to influence and control and since religion naturally wields an invincible controlling power, it appeals to religion to achieve its aim.

By Hannah Woodward

For centuries religion and politics have been interdependent.Whether it be Christianity, Islam or Judasiam, there is no denying that religion and politics have gone hand in hand. Whilst many question the influence of religion, society today has seen religion and politics become exceptionally intertwined.

According to the most recent census conducted in the United Kingdom, Christianity is the major religion, followed by Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism in terms of number of believers. With over two thirds of the British population identifying as ‘religious’ in the most recent Census, and over 70% turning out to vote in the 2017 General Election, to repudiate that the two are inseparable would be inexcusable. Whilst the figures aren’t representative of one-another they do demonstrate that politics and religion are both rife within society, and allude to the fact that within twenty first century Britain, religion and politics are still interdependent.

Although our politicians indicate that there should be separation of religion and state, there is no denying that religion is prevalent within twenty first century politics. How many times do we see religious convictions and political issues intersect in such a way that religion cannot possibly be separated from the State? Religion is at the heart of every debate within British political discrepancies; often powered by religious opposition concerning issues such as: school prayer, sex education in state schools, abortion, legalized marijuana, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, tax abatements for not-for profit organizations, war, torture of prisoners, religious symbols and statues on public property, and opening public meetings with prayer. Therefore to suggest that religious convictions don’t influence political decisions is ludicrous when religious opponents and arguments often fuel the greatest debates within society.

Same sex marriage is a topic that is heavily debated within British society and politics, due to religion being the only opposition to its legality. Same sex marriage has been legal within Scotland since 2014, legal in England and Wales since 2013, and is currently illegal in Northern Ireland. The leading party DUP is strongly opposed to LGBT equality, and henceforth the DUP has employed peace process powers to override democratic votes in favour of equal marriage in the Northern Irish Assembly in the name of Religion.

Despite the legalization of same sex marriage in 2013 for England and Wales, this topic was not met, and is still not met, with open arms for many in society. Whilst for England and Wales same sex marriage is legal, only 139 places of worship have registered to perform same-sex marriage, meaning approximately 99.5% do not offer it. Despite legalization, just 23 homosexual couples had a religious marriage ceremony in 2014, compared with over 68,000 heterosexual couples.

The fact that the Church overrides British laws concerning same sex marriage, religion fundamentally halts the opportunity for same sex couples, demonstrating how religion hegemonizes the political power within the United Kingdom. There is no denying that religion is the barrier for equality in terms of same sex couples evidently proven by the DUP ‘s actions on overriding votes in favour of equal marriage. Yet, why does religion have a greater say over democracy? If issues were non-religious the political system would respect the actions of democracy, in fact if ‘ Vote Leave’ were overridden by ‘The Remain’ campaign for “religious reasons” there would be anarchy! Religion almost has too much respect and tends to be “hands off” as far as being criticized or even discussed, which provides the platform for its position within the political system.

Politics seeks to influence and control and since religion naturally wields an invincible controlling power, it appeals to religion to achieve its aim. Both the Bible and the Qu’ran involves a mix of religion and politics. The two Holy Books illustrate incidence where religion and politics worked hand in hand to achieve a common goal. Politicians are aware of the interdependent power of religion and politics, thus use religion for political gain. The previous French President Nicolas Sarkozy had enlisted the help of religious leaders, including Muslims as well as Catholics and Protestants, for his re-election campaign. Despite Sarkozy stating that Islamic veils are not welcome in France, and taking a hard line on Muslim dress, Sarkozy still enlisted the aid of Muslim leaders for his election campaign, despite his obvious intent to condemn Islamic practice of the Burqa.

Political parties arguably set their policies dependent on the key social issues of the time, and for centuries religion has been leading the way for values of society. However with rise of atheism and social justice, the need for religious power within politics is becoming needless, demonstrating the call to address issues that religion has been avoiding for centuries such as: abortion, legalized marijuana, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. Whilst it is important to recognize that following a religion should be accepted within society, just as accepting non religious ideas, society should make sure that nothing hinders the free will of others, especially in circumstances that create an unfair and unequal society.

Whilst 70% of the British population identified with some sort of religion, scholars have alluded to the fact that whilst many of the British population identify as Christian, many are not practicing and support political movements for addressing social issues such as abortion and same sex marriage. Therefore those who are against these issues within society, are in fact a small minority so, for the minority to hinder the opportunities of the majority is in a way preventing democracy from happening, which can be demonstrated within Northern Ireland with issues around abortion and same sex marriage.

Religion and politics are definitely inseparable as the majority of political issues within the 21st Century stem from religious opposition. However, the future of politics should definitely be a society whereby democracy has a greater power than religion.

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