07 September 2007

The Politics Of God

There was this brilliant article* on secularism, religion and politics. In it the author tries to understand Islamic extremism - its absolute refusal to separate religion and politics - by looking at Christianity's own history. He notes that separation of church and state in the West is itself a relatively recent phenomenon, and is still an experiment.

For more than a thousand years religion and politics went together in the Christian world too. Then the Reformation happened, dividing Europe into Protestant north and Catholic south. The next century and a half saw the two sects busy killing each other (the French Wars of Religion, the Thirty Years' War in Germany, the English Civil War, etc). Finally they realised this madness had to stop, otherwise there wouldn't be any Christian left alive. Thus was born "The Great Separation". And the man who led them on this path was Thomas Hobbes, with his 1651 work Leviathan.

[I had always thought that the father of Western secularism was Machiavelli - the first European thinker to offer an amoral (not immoral) view of politics. Hobbes I knew mainly in a negative light, for his advocacy of despotism and criticism of democracy. So this article was news to me.]

The article is written in a completely Western context, talking only about the three Semitic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. That is understandable - the author is a Westerner (and a Christian) and the hot issue facing the world today is radical Islam. However it would be interesting for us to ponder over what all this means in the context of Hinduism.

(*Unfortunately the article is no longer available for free at the original site. You can try accessing it here.)

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