A Study of Religion in Politics

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Policy, Elections, and People
A Study of Religion in Politics

Introduction
Religion has always played a large role in politics. Religion has played a role in the division of parties, political policy, and in influencing voters to vote for a particular candidate. It is presumed that religion has existed since the beginning of time and that it stills holds a prominent position in what occurs in today’s society. Religion, no matter what belief a person may have, often regulates what a person believes, what they consider right and wrong, and also governs the decisions that they will make. These aspects are what make religion a very “touchy” subject when it comes to politics. Politicians are often asked about certain issues and topics that pertain to religious belief and background. These aspects of religion in politics make for some interesting situations and even alienation when it comes to the political battle. Role of Religion in Politics

A question is often asked regarding what kind of role religion plays in politics. According to David Chidester in his book Patterns of Power- Religion and Politics in American Culture, “religious power” exists and is something that brings together and unites communities of people (Chidester 3). This social force can exist in either harmony or in conflict within a variety of political, economic, and social situations. Chidester believes that from these two perspectives, we can see that some societies can be regarded as fields of power unified by the cohesive force of religion (Chidester 3). While this may seem confusing, Chidester is trying to say that religious beliefs create groups of people that at times will agree and disagree with certain situations and ideals; in this case, ideals held by politicians and expressed through politics.

Chidester goes on to bring up another theory on why religion has such an influence on society and therefore influences political decisions. Chidester references the work of Max Weber, a sociologist who is also the author of the book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. Weber’s work has provided a basis for analyzing the processes of interaction of religion and society. Weber regards religion as a separate human institution, which is involved and interacts with other social institutions, therefore influencing them (Chidester 4). Religion is a force in interaction with other social forces. “From this perspective, religion is a process by which human beings negotiate issues of ultimate authority, meaning, and value within specific social, economic, and political contexts” (Chidester 4).

People live their everyday lives based on what they believe in and based on all social and moral ethics that they may have. Because a large portion of the United States reports to have some kind of religious affiliation, this affiliation is undoubtedly going to affect their views, which directly influences their actions.

Why is this important? It is important because the people of this country run American politics. You become elected to power in this country based on what your views are on issues and how well you appeal to those in the general population. “While in public office, particularly at state and local levels, candidates make it clear that they share not only the political interests of the constituency, but also its sound moral convictions – those principles that religion confirms and clarifies” (Religion and Politics 1). This shows that politics is something that is highly influenced/run by the people that the governing body represents. Because of this, ethics and the beliefs contained within religion are qualities that the majority is going to look for when choosing their representatives. This is what I believe the main role of religion in politics is. Religion influences the beliefs and actions of those running for office, and then in turn, influences how they are evaluated by the general population, resulting in...
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