Dare we speak of the toxic mix? That being mixing religion and politics.
To make sure we give as accurate a picture as possible it is important to define the mainstream of politics and mainstream of the religion. In the mainstream religion and politics have been intertwined but that also carries over when society in a given space and time, goes off the rails.
in politics we have seen the horror show of extreme left wing politics during the Stalin Era in Russia or the Chinese Cultural Revolution under Mao. The extreme right is no prize either as witnessed with the Nazi Regime of Hitler in Germany or the Pinochet Regime in Chile in more recent times. These regimes either discarded religion or used it for their politically perverted purpose but that is a misconception as religion is always there like the wallpaper on the palace walls, highlighted or not. By that I mean it remains politely silent waiting for its chance to be relevant again. Yes we have had some very bad political episodes in world history. Whenever I see a rise in populism right or left I view it as a cause for concern. Populism is rooted in simplistic solutions to complex problems. It is sold to people looking for answers to things they do not understand until they are confronted with the consequences of rash decisions for the most part. I refer to populism as pigeon leadership. That is where some mouth piece arrives and verbally dumps all over everything, makes a big mess and leaves the stage worse than when he found it.
When I hear the slogans such as the moral majority or we need to put God back into government, my first question is “Who’s God”? The reason I say that is because such slogans are fueled with an attached agenda.
Here is a prime case of where religion and politics proved destructive. Let me introduce you to the last act of the Roman Empire. Constantine converted to Christianity. The problem however reversed itself in that the Roman Empire decided to impose its new religion on neighboring kingdoms. Waring factions ultimately destroyed the empire from within.
In the wake of the political collapse the church assumed the role of leadership in political reality. History records it as the dark ages. It became a clash of religion against science which is still part of society in some corners. Religion as the seat of political power gave the world bloodshed and tyranny. The Spanish Inquisition, local trials by ordeal, the burning of witches, and heretic laws. That being espousing beliefs not conforming with church laws and doctrines. It was also a criminal offense to rail against religion in a manner the would defame religion. These are called blasphemy laws.
Ancient history? Well no. For example it is still against the law in many societies punished by death. Then again blasphemy laws were rescinded in Ireland in January 2020.
Again some say these absurd situations are relics of the past. Unfortunately the institutions of religion and science are still at odds today. We’ve seen this during the pandemic where something as simple as wearing a mask is a symbol of resistance to some sinister plot that doesn’t exist. In some countries religion is the oppressor against minorities with the same zeal oppression was once used against them.
Religion as the seat of absolute power is every bit as bad as errant political leader with destructive behavior. It is the duty of citizens to be informed and have the courage to speak up when it is time to speak truth to power.
This is true not to say religion or politics are bad it just means we have to be aware. It is important to remember in order to have a free and open society politics and religion must be separate and no one group should be granted too much power.