Religion indispensable, but not in political life
Mike Huckabee, the conservative former Arkansas governor, this weekend said that he is concerned about Islam's role in Egypt's future. As On Faith panelist Reza Aslan this week noted, Huckabee has also called for Americans to "take this nation back for Christ" and, while running for president in 2008, declared that "what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards."
In America and in Egypt, should a majority religion inspire political life? How will Islam play a role in the struggles for democracy happening now in Egypt and other parts of the Muslim world?
Religion is an integral part of society and is indispensable. However, will adopting a majority religion do the state any good? This is a very big question. Should we go back to the medieval times when religious heads in parallel ran de-facto governments as it was seen in Iran? So far there has not been any successful model where religious heads ran a government and supported democracy. The theocratic state in the past has only caused more violence and unrest in the society. It is high time we move from religious fundamentalism to an all-inclusive, non -denominational spirituality.
Every religion has something unique to offer human development and therefore spirituality. While spirituality is all-inclusive, religion definitely divides the society with its various denominations. We have seen for centuries that conflicts have come between Protestants and Catholics, Shiites and Sunnis, Hindus and Muslims and Muslims and Christians in various parts of the world.
Religion should motivate people to move away from corruption and violence and should steer clear from politics. Religion should console and care in times of disaster and actively be involved in developmental activity and can bring sweeping reforms as far as the social ills are concerned. Democracy is not inherently anti-religious but it should provide equal opportunity to people of all faith and denominations. The perception that secularism is opposed to religion should be done away with. People who claim to be secular should have inter-faith dialogues and honor all religions.
One of the reasons of rampant corruption in secular democracies is lack of spiritual and religious values. This is the one of the reasons, some intellectuals think of marrying religion and politics again. How far and how long this would work remains an unanswered question.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
February 4, 2011; 12:10 PM ET
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