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Religious Traditions in Politics: Catholicism  

Lawrence C. Reardon

Traveling from Galilea and Judea 2,000 years ago to the far reaches of the Roman Empire, Jewish Christians gradually transformed their small gatherings of believers into a major European Catholic State-Church, which eventually became today’s Global Catholic Church-State. Popes throughout the centuries have adapted strategies to deal with internal religious challenges, including the Great Schism of 1054, which separated the Eastern and Western Christian Churches, and the European Reformation of 1517, which created separate vibrant Protestant Churches. The popes have also dealt with external threats from Islam, nationalism, and communism that sought to control or eliminate the pope’s autonomy to lead the Church. With a universal church of over 1.3 billion members in the developed and developing world, Pope Francis continues to adapt Church policies while tackling its greatest challenge to its legitimacy, the sexual abuse scandals.

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Religious Traditions in Politics: Confucianism  

Youngmin Kim, Se-Hyun Kim, and Ji Hye Song

Because of the missionary activities of Jesuits in late imperial China and the world religions paradigm that emerged in the late 19th century, scholars tend to view Confucianism as a world religion. However, Confucianism does not fit into disciplinary boxes neatly. Accordingly, Confucian religiosity has been the subject of much debate among scholars. The answer depends largely upon how one defines religion and Confucianism. However, Confucianism and religion are not self-evident categories, but historically conditioned entities. Central to the theoretical discussion of Confucian religiosity has been the idea of transcendence. To many, Confucianism does not seem a type of religion because it does not put God at the center of attention. To others, Confucianism upholds immanent transcendence as its ideal, which does not impose an other-worldly standard but instead suggests human perfectibility. By invoking the notion of immanent transcendence, scholars caution us not to take European Christianity for granted and not to close our eyes to the array of alternative forms of religion. In addition to this theoretical debate, there have been other types of study on religious aspects of Confucianism. Anthropologists and historians have been studying practices of Confucian religious rituals in Chinese history. Rituals were a powerful method that rulers, throughout the dynasties, have employed to legitimize their rule. As with other rituals, imperial authorities patronized various rituals in the hope of attaining the support of their subjects. However, from its inception, Confucian rituals became complex interpretive arenas in which various social actors disputed, accommodated, negotiated, and rearticulated the Confucian orthodoxy according to their interests. Throughout the 20th century, mainland Chinese politicians and intellectuals often stigmatized Confucianism as the cause of China’s downfall. However, Confucianism, which had been regarded as only a hindrance by the Communists, currently appears to be a resource with which to remake China.

Article

Religious Values and Worldviews  

Raja M. Ali Saleem

Values are enduring beliefs that impact human actions and behavior. They are conflated with norms, morals, traits, and attitudes, but they are different. Worldviews, held consciously or unconsciously, are interpretive frameworks or a set of presuppositions about the basic constitution of reality that provides the foundation for people’s lives. Religious values can be specific to a religion or universally shared. In the developed world, religious values are losing their potency, but in developing countries, where people are existentially insecure, these values still guide individual and social action and behavior. Although people have had religious worldviews from times immemorial, a conscious effort to develop and present such worldviews to counter more secular worldviews was first initiated in the late 19th century. It was thought that religions, particularly Christianity, could better withstand the onslaught of secularization and modernization by presenting themselves as worldviews. Since then, the presentation of religions as worldviews has gained momentum, and the initiative by a few Protestant evangelicals has spawned hundreds of articles, books, courses, and workshops that cover almost all major religious worldviews.

Article

Social Justice, Anti-Poverty Work, and Religion  

Lara Rusch, R. Khari Brown, Ronald E. Brown, and Francine Banner

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s spiritual vision of a Beloved Community, equally valuing all humans, called for direct, transgressive action for political and cultural change. Despite his and others’ effective mobilization for racial justice, this vision of an economically just society has largely not been achieved. The 20th century witnessed a growing chasm in political interpretations of American Christianity, between those who believe their faith requires challenging the roots of poverty and those who believe such inequality reflects fair judgment on personal behavior. These dynamics affect the charitable and political choices of religious institutions as well as individual support for social programs. Most clergy in the United States report preaching about issues social justice, and the vast majority of churches provide some social services; however, less than a third engage in political action toward similar goals. Regional inequality, the mobility of people and capital, and dynamics of congregational adaptation create challenges for religious leaders who seek to educate and engage congregants on social justice. Still, a persistent minority of leaders and institutions actively seek Dr. King’s vision, often working in community coalitions, such as innovative programs for court reform, addressing the criminalization of poverty. More research is needed to assess what kinds of anti-poverty programs and activism are the product of congregations across ideology, and what belief systems or contexts shape their choices to assist the needy. Additionally, future work could consider the appropriate roles for religious institutions in negotiating their own religious mandates and community pressures in relation to the interests of the state, such as through the criminal justice system or public social programs, and the interests of vulnerable community members.

Article

The Confucian Tradition and Politics  

Youngmin Kim, Ha-Kyoung Lee, and Seongun Park

Confucianism is a principal category and term of analysis in most discourses on Chinese culture. However, when it is defined in very stylized terms, it turns out to be of little use for understanding long-term historical changes, as its meaning varied greatly over more than a millennium. The Confucian tradition has fluctuated primarily because rulers and elites made use of inherited Confucianism for their ideological ends. In this light, Confucianism, Chinese elite, and politics are closely interconnected. Confucius, who has often been regarded as the founder of Confucianism, did not entertain a chance to materialize his political vision through a powerful government office, even if he had wished to do so. However, after his death, the early imperial rulers of China actively appropriated the textual tradition of what would later become Confucianism and used it to legitimize their political powers. Throughout the late imperial periods, Neo-Confucianism gained wide currency among those who did not hold governmental office and yet sought to engage in public matters at a local level. At the same time, donning the ideological garb of a Confucian sage-king, late imperial rulers instituted the civil service examinations and adopted Neo-Confucian commentaries on classical texts as the official curriculum. As there was almost no other access to office except through these examinations, Neo-Confucianism had become required knowledge for anyone who aspired to become a member of the elite until the early decades of the 20th century. In the late 19th century, China found itself in a disadvantageous position in the new world order, where aggressive European imperialism advanced across Asia. At that time, Chinese reformers regarded Confucianism as a cause of China’s failure to industrialize as adeptly as Western countries had. During the Mao Zedong era, Confucianism continued to be held responsible for the static nature of Chinese society, which robbed it of the possibility of progress. As Communism ceases to be a satisfactory model for China, the country’s politicians and intellectuals have sought a new identity and model whereby they can fashion their future. As a consequence, although discarded at the beginning of the last century as the cause of China’s demise, Confucianism has been gaining new currency as the model for modern China.

Article

Hinduism: India, Nepal, and Beyond  

Rina Verma Williams and Sayam Moktan

With over one billion adherents worldwide and 15% of the world’s population, Hinduism is the fourth largest, and among the oldest, of the major world religions, with important political aspects that reverberate well beyond South Asia. Yet it is perhaps the least studied of the major world religions. Hinduism is also one of the most geographically concentrated religions of the world. The majority of Hindus are concentrated in two South Asian countries, Nepal and India, where Hindus constitute 80% or more of the population. Small but politically influential diasporic communities of Hindus are found throughout Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, the United States, and Canada. Key characteristics of Hinduism that set it apart from Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), especially politically, include its polytheistic nature and lack of one single authoritative text; the tremendous variation in its practice across locality and caste; and its frequently informal practice beyond the confines of official institutions such as temples. Hinduism has been compatible with a range of regime types over time in India and Nepal, including empire, monarchy, and democracy. Both India and Nepal are officially secular countries, but the status of secularism in both countries is contested by the forces of Hindu nationalism, a movement that seeks to institutionalize the political, social, and cultural predominance of Hinduism. Religious conversion is expressly prohibited in Nepal; in India, it is increasingly under legislative attack. The politics of caste are an important political aspect of Hinduism in both India and Nepal. While politics in both countries remain dominated by upper castes, important lower-caste political mobilization has appeared in India, but has yet to take hold in Nepal. A better understanding of Hinduism’s political aspects has enormous potential to enhance knowledge of religion and politics more broadly.

Article

Prejudice and Religion  

Jolanda van der Noll

Many studies have established that religious people display higher levels of prejudice. The review of the literature suggests, however, that in order to understand the relationship between religion and prejudice, it is important to consider the target of prejudice as well as the multifaceted nature of religion. Regarding the target of prejudice, some prejudices may be condemned in religious communities, whereas others may be perceived to be promoted by religious communities. Religion as a multifaceted construct encompasses social, moral, cognitive, and emotional aspects. In its relations with prejudice, the social and cognitive dimension are particularly relevant, as these dimensions determine who is considered to be an in-group member and what constitutes a threat to the own religious worldview. Furthermore, it has also been shown that the exposure to religious concepts influences prejudicial reactions. Finally, a review of the studies conducted outside the context of white Christians in North America and Europe shows that, regardless of social context and religious denomination, prejudice can to a large extent be explained by perceptions of threat, for example, to one’s belief system, which may especially be important for religious people.

Article

Q Methodology in Research on Political Decision Making  

Steven R. Brown

Q methodology was introduced in 1935 and has evolved to become the most elaborate philosophical, conceptual, and technical means for the systematic study of subjectivity across an increasing array of human activities, most recently including decision making. Subjectivity is an inescapable dimension of all decision making since we all have thoughts, perspectives, and preferences concerning the wide range of matters that come to our attention and that enter into consideration when choices have to be made among options, and Q methodology provides procedures and a rationale for clarifying and examining the various viewpoints at issue. The application of Q methodology commonly begins by accumulating the various comments in circulation concerning a topic and then reducing them to a smaller set for administration to select participants, who then typically rank the statements in the Q sample from agree to disagree in the form of a Q sort. Q sorts are then correlated and factor analyzed, giving rise to a typology of persons who have ordered the statements in similar ways. As an illustration, Q methodology was administered to a diverse set of stakeholders concerned with the problems associated with the conservation and control of large carnivores in the Northern Rockies. Participants nominated a variety of possible solutions that each person then Q sorted from those solutions judged most effective to those judged most ineffective, the factor analysis of which revealed four separate perspectives that are compared and contrasted. A second study demonstrates how Q methodology can be applied to the examination of single cases by focusing on two members of a group contemplating how they might alter the governing structures and culture of their organization. The results are used to illustrate the quantum character of subjective behavior as well as the laws of subjectivity. Discussion focuses on the broader role of decisions in the social order.

Article

Religion and Political Conflict: “No Religious Affiliation” in the United States  

Kristi Winters

After years of exceptionally high levels of religious adherence and identity, the latter part of the 20th century saw the start of a trend: increasing numbers of Americans reported they had no religious affiliation when asked by pollsters. From the start of polling on religious beliefs and identity in the mid-20th century, Americans were unlikely to report they had “none” when asked to name their religious identity. National surveys in the 1970s and 1980s found fewer than one-in-ten American adults reported they had no religious affiliation. After decades of reported religious belief levels and religious identity patterns that remained robust, America is experiencing a decline in religiosity in the 21st century. Research in 2016 found that nearly one-quarter of those surveyed identified as “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “nothing in particular,” nearly triple the 9% reporting the same during the General Social Survey in 1992. Those without a religious identification are now the second largest “religious” group in America What accounts for the observed changes in American’s religious affiliation responses over time? Social researchers have identified more than one possible source of change. One could be changing social forces; a second source of variation might come from changes in which people, how people, and why people answer religious affiliation questions over time; and third, the factors people say were the source of change in their religious affiliation.

Article

Religious Traditions in Politics: Protestantism  

Evert van Leeuwen

Protestantism was labeled when German noblemen wished to retain control of their own country church. Martin Luther’s theology based on faith and the scripture became in this way a matter of political dispute. His rejection of the pope as the final authority in matters of religion brought the Lutheran country churches within the power and economy of the local noble rulers, liberating them from financial obligations to Rome. Luther’s actions were, in the first phase of Protestantism, followed by those of Anabaptists and cantons in Switzerland (Huldrych Zwingli) and cities in France (Martin Bucer in Strasbourg; John Calvin in Geneva). Calvin stood for a kind of theocratic regime based on his doctrine of predestination. His views spread over France and the Low Countries (Belgium, Netherlands) as a liberation from the feudal system. In the second phase of Protestantism, the political dimension became less significant, and the focus became instead upon Protestant believers’ looking inward to find the Light, or God, in themselves. Political action then became the consequence of the intention to do well, by seeking justice and seeing that every human being is created in God’s image. Many groups were persecuted, as the earlier Anabaptists were, and left Europe for the New World. There they became activists for the abolition of slavery, equal rights for all human beings, and social justice. The third phase of Protestantism is characterized by ideas of rebirth and regeneration. Sin and evil can be washed away and people can start a new life in the blessing of Jesus Christ, following his guidance as evangelicals. In matters of politics, personal norms and values become more important than social justice or reform, leading to bans on, for instance, abortion and homosexuality as sinful ways of life. In the early 21st century, a significant number of Protestant groups are active in right-wing politics, and their membership continues to grow in the Americas, Africa and Asia.