Type: Analysis
Pages: 9 | Words: 2401
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In the earlier times, people andsocietywereunder immenseinfluence of religion.Religion controlled the governance of a society, people’s actions and even the way peopleledtheir lives. It was until the eighteenth century that a group against religion having so much power over people emerged. The movement was theenlightenmentgroup. They believed that human beings couldreasonandsurviveon their own without relying onreligion. Religion has also played a role in politics even in today’s world. This essay will focus on religious beliefs in contrast to enlightenment beliefs and hoe religion can hinder democracy.


The enlightenment era brought aboutnew values and beliefs. The most significantcontributionofenlightenmentthough was that it introduced human reasoning. People around theworldwere relying onreasoningrather than religious beliefs (Freely, 2008).Thisimmenselyaffectedreligionand the church, the beliefs that the church had preached to betruthfell under the test. For instance, the belief about the sun revolving around the earth, which scientist usingreasonproved to be wrong.

Enlightenment believes in individuals havingtruthandreasoningunder their control. This means that human beings shouldreasonindependentlyand to make their own decisions. It is also upon the individual tojudgewhat thetruthaccording to their reasoning is and what it is not.This gives peoplefreedomand enables them to engage in more productive activities than it wasinitially.

On the contrary, religion dictated what the truth was in the days before enlightenment. It also gave restrictions on what anindividualcoulddoor not do. The way the church operated was that it kept people in darkness concerning some matters. This limited the freedom that individuals experienced in societies. The values that religion advocated for was the belief in higher authorities and in following their orders to the point.

Another example of anenlightenmentvalue is that everymanisequal. This then gives individuals thefreedomto seek their own happiness in every possible way. This value believes that every man has an equal opportunitytothis world and that he or she should strive toachievehis fulfilment in this world. This gave human beings the freedom to pursue the things that made them happy in the world.

This was a shift from what the church teachings. This is so especially for the Christians who believe that their happiness is not of theearthbutratherfoundin another lifetime. This,therefore, renders Christians to endure suffering in the world and notsearchfor happiness.Theseoppressing beliefs enacted by the church willresultinto a personsufferingduring theirlifetimeand not findinghappinessin life.

The above are just examples of enlightenment values thatintellectualsintroducedbi intellectuals toopposethe normalcy that had been developing. Enlightenment though proposes threemainideas and subjects, which revolve around the movement of enlightenment. These ideas areindividualism, relativism, and rationality.Todemonstratetheinfluencethatenlightenmenthad on religion,theessaywill focus on the threekeyideas proposed by enlightenment movement.
Relativism, individualism, and rationality

The beginning of the enlightenment movement began on the focus on the individual. The values thatenlightenmentproposed focussed on helping theindividual. The philosophers ofthe enlightenmentwere more concerned on the individual’s rights andfreedom. The new proposed values focussed on making theindividualattainmaterial things and live comfortably.

Enlightenment stressed on the individual as havinginbornright,which hewas,supposedtoexercise (Freely, 2008).Individualism caused individuals to pursue their own future without caring about the other individuals. Enlightenment wanted to see theindividualrise to levels that he or she had not imagined. Thisnotionwastoeradicatethegroupor communityconsiderationbefore acting.

This aspect ofenlightenmentstarted tothrivein every part of the society. In politics, people began toactonindividualdesires and ambitions. This also must have also thrived in the economic region. Karl Marx believes thatindividualismthat led to capitalism. This was evident in the fact that the bourgeoisie did not care about the workers. Individualism also thrived in art and even inliterature.

Individualism is anaspecthighly reprimandedby the Islamic religion. In Islam, they preach against individualism and instead advocate for oneness andgroupaspect. Anindividualcannot survivein Islam on his or her own. This was one of the reasons thatindividualismwas not able to penetrate the Islamic religion. On the other hand, in Christianity, individualism prospered. This becameheightenedby the Protestants break from the Catholic Church. Individuals then began toseethat they could survive on their own. Protestants also promoted the materialism theme, which encouraged people toattainmaterials for their own benefit.

The secondideathat enlightenment promoted was relativism. This meant that there was universality in people’sculture, belief, and ideas. It emphasized that no culture in the world was superior to the other. It gave all cultures and people’s beliefs around the world equal opportunity. This idea contrasted with the different beliefs attached to the different religious groups (Freely, 2008). Groups such as the Jews strongly believed that theircultureand beliefs were superior to the other religious groups. This even differed from one country to another. For example, the Church of England had differences with the Roman Catholic Church. Enlightenment eliminated thisdifferenceand equated cultural beliefs and ideas across the world as having the same merit.

The thirdideaproposed by the enlightenment movement was rationalism.In fact,thebasisofenlightenmentis rootedin rationalism andreasoningof an individual. Thisaspectbelieved and encouraged that human beings should usereasoningtogainthe truth. It was against the individual relying on thetruthputforthespeciallyby the religious groups. Thetruththat individuals attained throughreasoningwas then to be used to make humansleadabetterlife.

Initially,knowledgeaboutthe phenomenonand happenings in the world became explained usingfaith, revelation, and even strong beliefs in what religion proposed. People believed in what theywere toldor what becamerevealedto themas being thetruth. In this period, there was no room forreasoningas to whether thetruthwas indeed thetruth. On the other hand, enlightenment introduced the basics forknowledgeas logic and reasoning.

This is in contrast especially to the Islamic religion, which heavily relies on religious beliefs andfaithin orderto gain knowledge.Islam teachingsbelieveknowledge emanates from spirituality. The values ofenlightenmentmay have even contributed to theformationofreligiousstate. Enlightenment values led to secular states that separate religion from politics entirely.
Separation of governments andreligion

Enlightenment values contributed largely to the secularisation of politics. Politics shifted fromauthorityfrom God and from those that God had bestowed uponpower. Individuals who came up withrationalideas about governing the country replaced crowns andaristocracy.Individuals proposing toofferrights to every citizenbegan toform,and this was the emergence of government.

The history of government and religion began at an early age. In those early times when one became a leader, they took up bothpoliticaland upreligiousroles. During these times, the kings and leaders ruled with the advice orconsentof the church.Ifcriticaldecisions arose,the church was to be consulted on its ground on the decision.

On the other hand, thestateeven supported and enacted rules of the church.If the church condemned adultery, it was upon thestateand its powerstoexecutethepunishmentupon the adulterers.There existed amutualrelationship between the state and the church. This began to change with time, as there emerged adivisionof thesocietyinto two spheres. This was thesecularand thespiritualsphere.

One of the first proponents ofstateexistingdifferentfrom religion was James Madison. He began thisdebateof separating the state from religion. His main argument was that religionwasachoiceof an individual (Jefferson, Madison, & Brenner, 2004). He argued that religion was adutythat people owe to the authorities above. Additionally,for thisdutyto be fulfilled,individuals must be set free toreasonandgivetheirdutyvoluntary. Heopposedforcing people into religionwithout their consent.

Madison though was adamantly against religion that constrained or limited theexistenceof democracy. He proposed that zerotoleranceupon such areligion. According to him, an ideal society was one that allowed individualslibertyto choose the religion they wanted to practice. Consequently, religion had noinfluencewhatsoever on the government.
Madison gives examples of the earlier roman government that portrays an example of state andreligion (Jefferson, Madison, & Brenner, 2004). It is from these earlier times that we are able to see that the state and religion cannot exist harmoniously.One way or another it willleadto aconflictand sufferanceon individuals.The government may fail to protectindividualsfrom religion if the two are inexistence. This was the main reason why Madison advocated forseparationbetween the state andreligion.

The reasons for the two remainingseparateinclude; first, separation ofreligionand state enhancesindividual’s rights. This is because the government as a separate entity willprovidefor the rights of individuals without the influence of religion. These rights will even include rights for freedom of religion. This means that anindividualis free to choose what religion to follow. This is contrary to if the state and religion existed as one as in many Islamic countries, there would bea lackof freedom of religion. This wouldresultto almost all individuals in such astatebelonging to the Muslim religion.

Second,separationof state from religion prevents discrimination of the minority religion.If a government that experiencesinfluencefromreligionis ruling astate, itmay result in oppressing the minority religion.This situation has occurred in countries leading even to conflict between religions.For example, if in a country dominated by Christianity,and thestatenot existing as a separate entity from religion, they maydiscriminateother religions such as Muslims.

Third, the separation of state and religion isnecessaryto ensure that people do notfollowone religion.This occurred in England under the rule of King Henry viii, where the officials forced everyoneto swear allegiance to his new religion.If a country fails to separatereligionand state, thisoccurrenceis most likely to reoccur.

On the opposing side, there are those who argue againstseparationof the state from religion for the following reasons; one they argue that without the influence of religion,the state may lose the sense of morality.This is may have somebasisasreligionmayresultinto giving a stateconsciousnessthat will ensure that they look after an individual’s rights. Second, the opposition argues that such asituationthat separates the statesentirelyfrom religion cannot exist. This is because most laws made by the states derive from religious teachings.In addition,religionsometimes heavily relies on thestateor governmentto make sure that some it enforces some of its teachings.

Third, the separation of the state entirely from religion mayrendersome individuals tosufferand may lead to war in certain countries (Church, 2011). This is because of the influence that religion has in some countries. For instance, it would be difficult for Muslim populated countries to have a government with lack of Islamic influence. This may even lead towarandrestrictionof the individual’s rights in that country.
The case of the United States and United Kingdom

In the United States, the law isclearand has beenespeciallysince the times of Thomas Jefferson. It states that thelawwill not in anysituationwhatsoever refer to any religious teachings or writings in making of their laws. This was in the establishment clause (Church, 2011). Although the teapartyhas recently challenged thisestablishmentamendment, it is still part oflawthat the state and religion areseparateeven ifis not statedopenly.

The establishment clauseintroductionin the United States was in the earlier years.During those times,theseparationbetween the two may have beenapparentand yetevident. This may have resulted because of where thesocietyhad come from, meaning that thesocietywas ready for a change from the rule of the church.On the contrary, the situation has changed today and it seems that the churchand thestateare more entwined than they wouldwanttoadmit.This is evident in the fact that candidates for electiontothe United States have their religious beliefs orallegianceconsidered.

The United States may have provided for a separation and the lack of interference betweenreligionand state. It may have also givenroomfor any religion toprevailin thecountrywithout interfering with the state. What the United States failed to do was to provide a clear distinction of separation between the two. This has occurred in several European countries such as turkey and France. In these countries, there isthe lackof even the slightest influence of religion on politics. Religious experiences in these countries are only inpubliclives and by individuals.

As for the United Kingdom, the separation between church and state is minimal.This dates back to the earlier times when the Roman Catholic Church had influence inpoliticsandon themonarchyof England.This even continued after the Church of England overtook control of the Catholic Church. The church has animmenseinfluence in the government in the United Kingdom; this is so especially for the Church of England.

In the United Kingdom, theutmostpolitical power is themonarch. The monarchy is also theheadof the Church of England, therefore, making Englandbeunder the rule of the church. There are also twenty-six bishops with seats in the House of Representatives. The church also has a role inthe appointmentof crowns in the country. The church is also responsible forseveralstate responsibilities. These responsibilities include; being in charge of the coronation ceremonies. The Church of England in the United Kingdom had suchinfluence; it even forbids those who are in themonarchon marrying Catholics.Thislater changed,and marriage between different dominations isallowable.


Thistermmeans orreferstothe separation of the state from religion. As many wouldwanttoclaim, that secularism is abeliefagainst God or rather amovementagainst believers, it is not the case. Secularism instead focuses on promoting governments that arefreeof influence from religion. This movement of secularism aims at providing democracy especially to the minorities. Secularism is also against supporting certain religions over others. It neither selects nor chooses sides. Aneutralmovementaims at promoting harmoniousexistencebetween different religions by making sure that the state andreligionare separate.

The Israel situation
In Israel, there is freedom of religion,but there lacks aseparationof the state andreligion.The countryis largely characterisedby Judaism and Judaism practices. Although Israel recognises theexistenceof some other denomination, the freedom provided to thisdenominationisminimal. The lack of separation has sifted in the law. Therefore, providing for laws that are Jewish or that the Jewish favour.
In these situations, the lack ofseparationoppresses those that are not Jewish such as Christians. One such discriminating law is alawoffering citizenship to Jewish upon their will (Halkin, 2007). This does not apply to those who may want tosettlein Israel and are not of the Jewish denomination.This infringes on the rights of such individualthe state shouldofferequal opportunities for citizenship regardless of their denomination.
This is the reason why secularismmovementbecameestablished. It isevidentthat those countries that do not haveseparationbetween the state and religion will end p not practicing democracy. It will notofferthe same opportunities orconsiderationto those from a different religion as the dominating religion. It iscrucialfor countries tohaveseparation between the two for the sake ofdemocracyof all its citizens regardless of what religion one belongs.

Sharia law
There have been countries thatproposeand even practiceleniencyon some religious groups. This mostly occurs in countries largely dominated by Christianity and has a minority of Muslims.Muslims as an ethnic group usually have their ownlawunder which theyjudgeorruleagainst offenders.This is the sharia law; the introduction of sharia law raises questions especially in thedebateof separating state from religion.
InBritainforinstance, there is the debate on the sharia law and it legitimacy. It questions thefactof allowing the sharia law as beingdemocraticor not. A new bill has recently emerged to ensure that the Britishlawsupersedes the sharia law incertainmatters (Brown, 2011). This is so especially in criminal matters.Sharia law isdiscriminatorytoward women,and at times, it mayignoretheircontributionin court.
This move of this bill goes against thedemocracyof not discriminating a minority religion. Many may even argue that this move is notdemocraticas it is denying the Muslims to practice their religion. It also shows that there cannot be anentiresituationwhere thestateisfreefrom religion. Learning from the sharia law, there those practices that are notdemocraticneither fair nor maynecessitatetheinterventionof the state.


In conclusion, there will always be a debate on the influence of religious beliefs onstatematters. Initially, there was no or lessdifferentiationbetween the two, butenlightenmentchanged this view, by introducingindividualismand rationalism. This then promoted the emergence ofseparategovernment ran by individuals. This has then led to the debate on the separation between the state andreligion. Though some countries have embraced this, some are stillresistant. It isevidentthough that lack of secularism in a country undermines thedemocracyof its citizenry.

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