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Article

Despite the predictions of Marxists and secularization theorists alike, the relationship between religion and government legitimacy is mixed. Religion, in its various forms, can serve to promote regimes of virtually any type—democratic or otherwise—and can just as easily undermine such regimes. Observers hoping for a one-size-fits-all account of the link between religion and legitimacy will surely be disappointed; the reality is far more complicated. Religion, encompassing a nearly infinite variety of beliefs, behaviors, and actors, exercises a diverse set of influences on its political context. For regimes, this diversity can be either helpful or dangerous. Religion is neither inherently pro-status quo nor revolutionary; it can be either one depending on the context. Likewise, religion is neither necessarily pro- nor anti-democratic. Political and theological conditions influence the ways in which religion interacts with politics, and in particular, the role it plays in building or undermining legitimacy. Twenty-first-century research highlights the Janus-faced relationship between religion and political legitimacy. In some settings, religion has been the foundation of non-democratic rule. In others, it has been a crucial catalyst for unseating dictators in favor of democratic alternatives. Theological differences can only explain part of this variation. The same religious tradition may serve as a defense of authoritarianism in one instance but a spark for democracy in another. Political factors play a key role in explaining why religion sometimes supports the status quo but in other instances may fuel revolutionary fervor.

Article

To understand the relationship between religion and genocide in time of war, one needs to distinguish between sacred and secular political religions. Among the genocidal events inspired by political religions based on sacred texts are the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the Sack of Magdeburg, the British Civil War in Ireland, and Bosnia. I also examine several groups pursuing a genocidal agenda claiming religious justification: al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Civil religions and secular political religions discussed are the French Revolution, Italian Fascism, Nazism, and Stalinist Communism. Lacking the restraints found in traditional religions, secular political religion is most dangerous. Large-scale genocides are best explained by diachronic processes entailing subordination followed by gain and then loss by the perpetrators. The presence of loss in various forms is found in virtually all cases. Emotions that typically do not influence routine politics—such as anger and fear—are engaged. All of the cases, even those of minimal loss, are influenced by international events. Without the presence of war, genocides like the Holocaust, and those of the Armenians and Tutsis, are inconceivable. Even as an exclusionary ideology, traditional religion is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for all forms of genocide in time of war. But religion can be an enabler that together with other antecedents can lead to genocide. Sacred religious sites can be sensitive locations whose violation inspires violence. Radicalization of religious leaders can occur when their religion appears to be under attack, especially during or following a period of widespread violence.

Article

The study of the relationship between religion and attitudes on the environment is a growing area of academic inquiry and combines research from political scientists, sociologists, and religious historians. Researchers in this area seek to better understand how religion influences attitudes on the environment or environmental policy and if religion motivates environmental action or behaviors. Key to this area of study is defining what religion is and deciding how to measure environmental attitudes. Is religion identified through religious affiliation, religious beliefs, religious networks and communication, or other criteria? Relatedly, are environmental attitudes understood as support for particular environmental policies, willingness to sacrifice to protect nature, or personal environmental behaviors such as recycling? Social scientists have attempted to answer these questions through an overview of key works in the study of religion and the environment in the United States. For additional perspective, these works are placed into their religious and international context to show where, if at all, religiously motivated environmental attitudes in the United States differ from those around the world.

Article

“Religious fundamentalism” is a term that, for several decades now, has been a staple of writing about the general involvement of religion in politics. “Religious fundamentalism” is nearly always associated with “traditional,” “conservative,” or “right-wing” understandings of the world. It is articulated and pursued by those who appear to believe that the world would be a better place if all people lived by the word of (their) God, as articulated and set forth in their particular faith’s holy scriptures. In addition, for many, “religious fundamentalism” implies a rejection of modernity and a wish to return to the past, to a—perhaps mythical—time when people lived by God’s jurisdiction. Despite what some believe, it is clear that religious fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon, although with historical antecedents. As a concept, “religious fundamentalism” has been widely employed since the late 1970s, especially by the mass media and many scholars. It has been used to describe and explain quite a few, sometimes rather diverse, religious movements around the globe with political aspirations to change society. The designation “fundamentalist” was first applied by some American Protestants to themselves in the 1920s. In the early 21st century, as a generic term, it is now widely applied additionally to a multitude of groups outside the corpus of American Protestantism. Generally speaking, the character and impact of fundamentalist doctrines is located within a nexus of moral and social issues revolving, in many contemporary countries and religions, around state–society interactions. “Modernization” has affected many people’s lives in profound and sometimes disconcerting ways. For some religious fundamentalists, this was manifested in an initial defensiveness, which eventually developed for many into a political offensive that sought to alter the prevailing social and political realities of state–society relations. That rulers were performing inadequately and/or corruptly, led many—but not all—religious fundamentalists to relate contemporary developments to a critical reading of their faith’s holy texts. The significance of this from a political perspective was that it could serve to supply an already restive group with a ready-made manifesto for social change. Many religious leaders saw the opportunity and began explicitly to use a selective reading of religious texts both to challenge secular rulers and to propose a program for often radical societal or sociopolitical reforms. Under these circumstances, it was often relatively easy for fundamentalist leaders to gain the support of those who felt that in some way the development of society was not proceeding according to God’s will or their community’s interests. In sum, various manifestations of what are generically referred to as religious fundamentalisms have appealed to different groups for different reasons at different times.

Article

Aubrey Westfall and Özge Çelik Russell

Religion is a central and comprehensive identity for billions of people all over the world. Politicians and other political actors recognize the vitality of religion and use it for political purposes, deliberately signaling religion, religiosity, or religious values and connecting them to political outcomes or behaviors in an effort to influence the political preferences of religious practitioners. The most efficient way to make the connection between religion and politics is through religious cues. Religious cues create information shortcuts linking religious identity or values with a political candidate or issue. Religious cues are used by political and religious actors in secular and religious contexts and are typically one of two general types: identity cues, which engage an individual’s religious identity and activate an in-group/out-group effect, and linkage cues, which link religious values or beliefs with an issue or candidate. Identity cues are particularly tricky to use in secular contexts because they have been shown to have strong alienating effects on nonreligious people, thereby defeating the intended purpose of the cue sender. For this reason, coded religious language called “implicit cues” is used with greater frequency in political discourse where only the religious cue receiver recognizes the religious cue for what it is. This strategy allows a political candidate to reap the benefits of the cue without risking alienation. While scholars have made substantial progress in using experimental methods to disentangle the ways religious cues influence political behavior, there is ample opportunity for more research exploring different types of religious cues and the way they interact with other forms of cues and identities. Furthermore, most of the research on religious cues has focused on Christian cues in the United States, and a more diverse range of religions and contexts should be explored to understand the way religious cues influence political behavior. Researchers should also expand the definition of “religious practitioners” to explore how religious cues influence the growing number of people who do not affiliate with a religion or engage in practices traditionally associated with religiosity but do identify as religious. This would help to expand conceptualization of political behavior to more accurately reflect lived political experiences. Embracing these opportunities will allow the scholarly community to gain a better understanding of the varied political dynamics of religious cueing, which offers insights into how fundamental identities and attitudes are linked, thereby shedding more light on the complex dynamics of political behavior.

Article

With a conservative party in power since 2002 that has its roots in the pro-Islamist movement, the influence of religiosity upon party choice has attracted a lot of attention in the literature on Turkish elections and voting behavior. However, this literature uses measures of religiosity that change from one study to another and hence diagnosing trends over time or assessments concerning the influence of religiosity remains challenging. This article aims to first review the findings concerning the effect of religiosity upon party choice in Turkey. Second, using the Turkish Election Studies data for four general elections in the 2002–2015 period a unified comparable framework is adopted to evaluate the changing nature of the influence of religiosity upon party choice. The findings reached suggest that religiosity remains a potent variable in shaping party choice. However, over time and across parties its influence varies. A sectarian divide between the Sunni majority and the Alevi minority also appears to be useful especially differentiating the left-leaning main opposition party. This sectarian divide also seems to be shifting over time.

Article

The subject of Muslim integration has been the focus of much policy development, media engagement, and everyday conversation in France. Because of the strong rhetoric about national identity—a national identity based on Republican ideals of universalism, equality, and French secularism (laïcité)—the question often becomes, “Can Muslims, as Muslims, integrate into French society and ‘be’ French?” In other contexts (e.g., the United States), religion may act as an aid in immigrants’ integration. In Europe, and France specifically, religion is viewed as an absolute hindrance to integration. Because of this, and thanks to a specific migration history of Muslims to France, the colonial grounding for the development of French nationality and secularism, and the French assimilationist model of integration, Muslims are often viewed as, at best, not able to integrate and, at worst, not willing to integrate into French society. The socioeconomic inequality between Muslim and non-Muslim French (as represented by life in the banlieues [suburbs]), the continued labeling of second- and third-generation North African Muslim youth as “immigrants,” the occurrence of terrorist attacks and radicalization on European soil, and the use of religious symbols (whether the head scarf or religious food practices) as symbols of intentional difference all add to the perception that Muslims are, and should be, the subject of integration efforts in France. While the discourse is often that Muslims have failed to integrate into French society through an acceptance and enactment of French values and policies, new research is suggesting that the “failed” integration of Muslims reveals a deeper failure of French Republican universalism, equality, and secularism.

Article

Since around the 1950s, hundreds of articles have been published in social science that are concerned with the concept of authority and authoritarianism and how both relate to religion. Despite this tremendous volume of research, two camps have emerged that have failed to incorporate the ideas of the other. Psychologists contend that deference to authority is primarily a personality-driven variable and is often shaped by subconscious and undetected psychological processes that are unchangeable once established. In contrast, sociologists contend that authoritarianism is largely a product of interaction in a social environment. This perspective suggests that religion is one of many factors that help to shape the authoritarian outlook of individuals, along with political and economic variables. Neither of these approaches has managed to synthesize their perspectives into a unified whole. In addition, while many scholars have included some aspect of religion in their analysis, little scholarship has placed it at the center of the inquiry. As a result, there has been no well-defined and thoroughly tested theory of religious authority, despite the fact that authority has driven two of the most important recent religious movements in the United States: the Religious Right and the Emergent Church Movement. Several suggestions are offered as means to make measurable progress in the field of religion and regard for authority. One way forward is to generate and test a battery of questions that measures authority from a uniquely religious perspective. Another opportunity lies in scholars measuring the deference to authority levels that exist in different religious traditions. These comparisons could be between Jews and Catholics, or even inside the larger Protestant tradition. Finally, scholars should make a concerted effort to connect clergy with their congregations as a means to discern if perceptions of authority are congruent between a religious leader and his or her parishioners.

Article

Steven Kettell

The boundary between the religious and the secular spheres of life is contested in many parts of the world. From the latter decades of the 20th century, controversies over issues such as the legalization of same-sex marriage, assisted dying, and freedom of speech, as well as clashes around reproductive rights and equality issues, have all featured highly on national political agendas. Set against a backdrop of the “return of religion” to public life, these debates and tensions have given rise to the notion that secularism might be in a state of crisis or moving toward some form of post-secular condition. The term “secularism” is itself also contested. The precise nature of the “secular” and the “religious” spheres of life is subject to interpretation, and secularism in practice can be manifest in a number of ways. This ranges from exclusivist forms of secularism in countries such as the United States and France to inclusive secularism in the case of India. Supporters of a role for religion in public life maintain that religion provides a range of valuable public goods and gives individuals a sense of meaning and identity. Secularists, on the other hand, claim that the separation of church and state provides the best framework for upholding the rights and freedoms of all citizens regardless of their religion or belief.

Article

Elizabeth A. Oldmixon

Churches are at the fulcrum of religious politics, and as church leaders, religious elites have an important role to play in the political milieu. They possess many of the resources associated with potent activism, but more importantly their job is to provide guidance to participants in a vast voluntary network. They can engage in agenda setting, encourage the faithful to apply their religious values to political engagement, and create opportunities to learn civic skills. Even so, religious leaders are subject to influence even as they try to exercise influence. In the foreground, religious leaders have a predictable set of goals, the substance of which varies by race, ethnicity, gender, and social theology. In the background, religious leaders pursue their goals in different sociodemographic and institutional contexts. The political behavior of religious leaders, then, is the product of background and foreground balancing.

Article

Religion is among the most powerful forces in the world and therefore one of the most prominent sources of both individual and group identification. Because of this, scholars have spent decades attempting to pinpoint its impact on numerous psychological, social, and political outcomes. A review of extant work shows religion in general (and religious identity in particular) affects mental and physical health; social relations, outgroup hostility, and conflict; and political attitudes and behavior. Importantly, however, the social scientific study of religion has conceptualized and operationalized religious “identity” along different lines: sociologists and political scientists typically define it as religious affiliation (assessed demographically or by self-placement into nominal religious categories) or religiosity (based on one’s frequency of worship attendance and/or how personally “important” one feels religion is), while social psychologists show greater interest in how psychologically central religion is to one’s self-concept. These distinct approaches underscore that scholars have both meant disparate things by their usage of “identity” and “identification,” as well as measured each term in nonequivalent ways. Moving forward, greater interdisciplinary dialogue—and ideally the establishment of a common metric—would be beneficial in order to better isolate why religion is a more central social identity for some people than others; the extent to which identification with religion overlaps with religiosity; where religious identity fits in among the multitude of identity options with which citizens are confronted; and how the determinants of strong versus weak religious identification vary across person, context, and religious tradition.

Article

Islamist parties in Pakistan are theologically diverse but grouped as such because of their belief in the state enforcement of religious law (shariah). While they have only achieved modest levels of electoral success, the country’s Islamist parties are considered important due to their ability to mobilize street power, lobby the state and judiciary from outside of parliament, and serve as key electoral allies of mainstream parties. In addition, these Islamist electoral groups employ a range of violence strategies. Many of these parties maintain militant wings, possess linkages with extremist Islamist outfits, and/or engage in violent politics on university campuses through their affiliated student groups. Existing literature suggests that violence by political parties has certain electoral benefits. First, it serves a coercive function, by intimidating voters to stay home on election day or compelling them to vote a certain way. Second, it can serve to polarize the populace along identity-based lines. However, given the limited success of Islamist parties in elections, it seems unlikely that their involvement in violence serves only an electoral purpose. In particular, much of the parties’ violent activity seems, at least at first glance, unrelated to electoral activity. Why, then, do Islamist parties utilize violence? Violence wielded by Islamist parties in Pakistan serves three functions. First, Islamist electoral groups are able to leverage their unique position as a part of the system with close linkages to militant actors outside of it to effectively pressure the state on a range of policy matters. That is, violence works to advance the party’s strategic goal of lobbying the government from outside of the legislative system. Second, the use of violence serves an ideological function by, for example, targeting specific sects and minority groups, fighting Western influence, and supporting the liberation struggle in Kashmir. The use of violence also helps prove to ideologically aligned militant actors that the parties are on “their side.” Finally, the use of violence can also serve purely electoral purposes. Like other identity-based parties, making salient a particular schism at opportune times can work to increase one’s own vote bank at the expense of other secular parties.

Article

Individual differences in personality, religiosity, and political dispositions often are explained in conjunction with one another. Though the religious and political may share common themes of meaning-making, group identity, and societal organization, personality also influences these orientations. Specifically, the Big Five traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, emotional stability) and authoritarianism demonstrate consistent relationships with religious/ political beliefs and behaviors. Personality is often thought of as the first mover to develop with an individual before exposure to the other two domains, leading to a conceptual influence model of: personality → religiosity → politics. Using longitudinal studies and genetically informed samples, however, some scholars suggest that these dispositions influence one another and could develop concurrently within individuals. Examining the measured boundaries and relationships between the three domains suggests these dispositions comprise an individual’s personhood, and the varied expression of traits, beliefs, and behaviors are somewhat dependent on culture and context.

Article

There is growing scholarly recognition of the prominent role that religion can play in empowering, shaping, and constraining political mobilization. Conceptually, religion can intersect with political opportunity structure in two general ways. First, it can be a component of the political opportunity structure: degrees of religious diversity, varieties of religion-state relations, levels of religiosity, and prevailing religious norms can substantially affect how social movements mobilize supporters. Second, religion can be an attribute of movements operating within a given political opportunity structure: a set of distinctive frames and resources available to religious actors that are unavailable to their secular counterparts. Understanding the intersection of religion and political opportunity structure requires addressing both of these dimensions of religion. One key challenge derives from the diversity of religious beliefs and organizations across and within faith traditions. There is persistent scholarly disagreement regarding the importance of specific ideological or doctrinal tenets and how these shape the salience of particular religions as both a component of the political opportunity structure and as a set of resources available to social movements. Scholarly understanding of these dynamics is hampered by the limited amount of research across faith traditions. Works focusing on Catholic, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, or Protestant movements, among others, tend to emphasize different features of religion, in ways that make their findings hard to aggregate. Despite this and other challenges, the consolidation of religion as a topic of scholarly attention has resulted in increasingly sophisticated arguments and improved the scope and quality of data on religion and politics. Scholars now have access to a variety of global, regional, and national surveys that describe patterns of religious belief, behavior, and belonging. There is also a growing repertoire of country-level measures covering religion-state relations, denominational diversity, and religious conflict. In addition, a growing body of in-depth case studies focusing on particular religious movements and organizations has enriched our understanding of the dynamic interaction between religious groups and the institutional, structural, and cultural opportunities they face.

Article

Despite predictions that urbanization, economic development and globalization would lead to the recession of religion from public life, populations around the world continue to be highly religious. This pattern holds in most parts of the Global South and also in some advanced industrial democracies in the North, including in the United States. In grappling with the influence (or lack thereof) of religion on political life, a growing body of literature pays attention to how clergy–congregant communication might shape listeners’ political attitudes and behaviors. Considerable debate remains as to whether clergy–congregant communication is likely to change political attitudes and behavior, but there is a greater consensus around the idea that exposure to religious communication can at the very least prime (that is, increase the salience of) certain considerations that in turn affect how people evaluate political issues and whether they participate in politics. Religious communication is more likely to exert a persuasive and a priming influence among those already inclined to select into the communication and when the source of the communication is credible. More research is needed on the duration of religious primes and on the effects of religious communication in different political and social contexts around the world.

Article

Scholars have identified a variety of mechanisms through which religion could impact vote choice in the United States. Researchers have long recognized that, like other social identities, religion is an important factor in the development of party identification. In the United States, evangelical Protestants and highly committed members of other religious traditions tend to favor the Republican Party, while seculars and low-commitment members of other religious traditions tend to favor the Democratic Party. Religion also impacts views on a variety of issues, including abortion, social welfare policy, and foreign affairs. Under the right circumstances, religious voters may incorporate these policy positions into their vote choice. Finally, a growing body of research recognizes that voters use a candidate’s religious views as a heuristic to infer partisanship, ideology, competence, trustworthiness, and a variety of other traits. Given these numerous paths of influence, it is no surprise that researchers regularly find that religion is an important factor in electoral choice. Researchers have also identified a variety of ways in which religion can impact turnout, thereby creating a second means for religion to influence American elections. Religion helps in the development of social networks and civic skills, thus reducing the costs of political participation. Religion can also be a factor in the development of sociopsychological traits such as threat, thereby facilitating mobilization. By understanding the capacity of religion to impact both turnout and electoral choice, scholars can better understand the myriad ways in which religion influences elections in the United States.

Article

This essay explores the well-known tension between the commitment to a state religion and expressions of tolerance for other religions. The background question concerns the consequences of state religion, the more suspect of the two commitments, at least with respect to intergroup relations. A useful conception of state religion is as a central part of an identity regime, which can take several forms in national constitutions. It seems likely that state religion—and other exclusive elements of identity regimes—threaten the national attachment of ethnic minorities in ways that unwind many of the benefits of tolerance provisions. A simple typology helps to understand the variation in these provisions across jurisdictions and over time, and original historical cross-national data on national constitutions describes this variation in some detail. The evidence suggests that the world’s constitutions are moving in strikingly divergent directions with respect to their provisions on religion.

Article

After decades-long neglect, a growing body of scholarship is studying religious components of protests. Religion’s role as a facilitator, the religious perspective of protesters, the goals of religious actors as participants, and faith-based outcomes of protests have been examined using quantitative and qualitative methodology. Although it is now a thriving research field, due to recent contributions, incorporating faith-based variables in protest research is a challenging task since religion travels across different levels of analysis; effortlessly merges with thick concepts such as individual and collective identity; and takes different shapes and color when it surfaces in various social contexts across the globe. Therefore, at the religion and protest nexus, there are more questions than answers. Research in the field would improve by investing more on theoretical frameworks and expanding the availability of qualitative and quantitative data.

Article

Lebanon is a multisectarian society of four million people, divided among eighteen sectarian affiliations, many of which are highly salient in Lebanese society. The country experienced a complex, multifaceted civil conflict from 1975 to 1990, the aftermath of which continues to shape political interaction in the country. Sectarian identity has evolved, both before as well as after the civil conflict, shaped by clientelism, individual identities, and Islamist political movements. Despite years of conflict, identity in post-war Lebanon has remained fluid, and while sect is still a relevant identity marker, it is neither as deterministic nor as linked to religious piety as outside observers may expect. Research shows that Lebanese citizens face pressures to conform to sectarian beliefs due to the control that sectarian political parties have over goods distribution, but, at the same time, conforming to the sectarian democratic system may moderate the absolutist claims of Islamist political movements, especially Hizbollah. Despite the institutional and demographic idiosyncrasies of the Lebanese political system, each of these findings do much to inform outside literature on religion and post-conflict processes, along with tangential work on clientelism, the role of identity and politics and Islamic politics. However, there is still much to be done. Researchers should devote more attention to the growing backlash against sectarianism among popular movements within Lebanon and do more to explore the links between clientelism and sectarian identity in more precise and greater detail.

Article

Religion has played a constant role in the United States–Israel relationship. Christian and Jewish interests have shaped U.S. foreign policy, especially after the rise of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. The role of religion Israel has historically depended on three interlinking factors: the influence of domestic political considerations in the calculations of American policymakers, the prominence of the Middle East in U.S. diplomatic and strategic thinking, and the beliefs and attitudes of individual policymakers, both their own religious convictions and their assessment of how important religious beliefs are to the American people. Religion has alternately strengthened and strained the U.S. relationship with the Zionist movement and the state of Israel. At some moments, such as the 1930s, religious attitudes and prejudices worked against closer cooperation. At other times, such as the Israeli–Egyptian peace summit of 1978, religious forces played a prominent role. As a state with special religious significance for many Americans, Israel provides a window into how religion functions in U.S. foreign policy, how its function has changed over time, and how religion has acted as an independent variable in political and policy outcomes.