Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Politics and Religion

I question the belief that the two are separate, or that they should be so. When the Philippines claimed “independence” from its Spanish conquerors, one of the proposed constitutions was the distinction between church and state (a reaction to some of the corrupt practices of the church during that era). Yet I don’t think that separation was fully upheld. Our Catholic forbearers remained Catholics, and they put into practice their religious belief, be it in their political life or their personal life. Nowadays, one can’t make a political decision without taking into consideration the reaction of the church – and in many ways, it does hold a vestige of authority in the country. Many theorize, and I agree with this proposal, that the reason why population control in the country was never successful in a post-Marcos era was because of the church’s stance against the use of alternative methods of family planning (the only option given to married couples are withdrawal or the rhythm method). Of course the educated of our society will rebel at this idea, at how religion interferes with the state. Yet taking a closer look, in certain ways, such unity is inevitable.

What most people fail to see is what politics and religion have in common. More than the propaganda of politicians or the promises of salvation by religion, the common cause of the two is that they both unite people. Whenever a civilization congregates into a cohesive force, they’re usually following a political ideal (i.e. something as simple as fair wages to something as complex as democracy) or a religious one. In fact, I don’t really see any distinction between the two except for the fact that most people treat the latter as irrevocable truth and the former as a necessary evil. What I find interesting is how the two forces manipulate people into following their tenets. Politics usually employs force of the law in the real world, either a fine or some physical punishment. Religion, on the other hand, employs something subtler. It can be punishment in the form of being socially ostracized, and in some cases, actual physical recompense. However, more often than not, religion threatens your faith, usually the afterlife, more than having an immediate, real-world impact on the offender.

The literati might clamor for a clear distinction between the two yet society’s answer is otherwise. Metro Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is for all intents and purposes a Catholic-centric city. I can only assume since I have no experience with Mindanao that that part of the country is similarly Islamic-driven in nature. Yet ours is far from a unique case. I mean one simply needs to look at America, a nation of the free and hodgepodge of cultures. Yet if we are to believe the courtroom dramas we see on television, why does their judicial system swear on the Bible for witnesses to testify the truth? If I weren’t a Christian, aren’t I less obligated to state the truth considering my oath to honesty is less binding than that of a Christian believer? Of course colonial America is merely one example of religion seeping into a country’s political system. There’s China for example, where preaching and distribution of the Bible has been restricted by the government to say the least. And what of various other Islamic countries where obviously, Islam is the dominant religion and how it wields much authority in the political arena?

As much as people want to separate the two, I think the telltale signs of any civilization is the existence of politics and religion, and how it manages to govern the lives of its members. Would it be possible to live in a country where the two are clearly and cleanly separated? If only the human psyche can be broken down into distinct components but alas, we are all but too human, and we must accept things in their totality than simply by their individual parts. Even if our political system was segregated from religion, our political leaders will no doubt still be influenced by their political beliefs.


AnotherVictimOfThePyreanSpring said...

So politics and religion are not separate... What really is the point in this rambling article?

Charles said...

What do you think?