Gods Disconnected: Secular Power
It’s not that long ago that the leaders, or more often the leader, of a particular religion held immense power over the governments and political elite of many countries of the world. In fact, it was often the case that political leaders were expected to serve a significant role within the religious establishment of a country.
Even today, religion has a major role in, for example, the British monarchy. Although the situation is beginning to change, the Church of England still expects the monarch to be a member of the Church and to undergo an investiture which is presided over by the Church leader. To cap it all, the religious elite of the Anglican church, the archbishops and bishops, have privileged and reserved seats within the second chamber, the House of Lords.
Since the enlightenment, some countries have managed to shake off the yoke of religious privilege, most notably France and, to a lesser extent, the United States. In the case of the United States, however, the separation of church and state is constantly under attack by those who desire power without the limitations of putting themselves forward for election.
In too many countries church and state are still very much part and parcel of the same institution. Religious leaders have the power to insist that politicians cannot rule without the overseeing presence of the established religion. What is the established religion? It is the religion with the most followers or the religion which ensures it is established by using threats of physical violence and intimidation.
Even within religions, however, there are differences of opinion. Take Islam. Sunni Islam allows politicians to be elected on their own merit whereas Shia Islam demands that the political head of the country must come from within the religious hierarchy. Within Christianity there are differences. The Catholic Church insists that a Catholic country must take the pope as it’s ‘spiritual’ leader and that the political leaders must abide by Catholic doctrine. The protestant church allows more leeway in the direction political leaders take a country, as long as church leaders are consulted over matters they consider moral or spiritual.
In recent years, people of many countries have decided that they no longer want to be ruled by dogma and have told church leaders they are not interested. However, this situation can never be considered absolute. Members of church congregations are told by their leaders to harry the public and politicians, to insist that religious leaders have their lost status reinstated. In the ongoing battle, intolerant attitudes towards ethnic, sexual and religious minorities are re-emerging.
There is something of significance to note here. Rarely are the arguments about gods and/or what gods want. Spiritual to a certain extent, often taking the form of: you can live a spiritual life without materialism; give your money to the church and free yourselves from want. No, the arguments are not about gods but about religious leaders taking, or retaking, power over the secular world. In their efforts to gain power over the secular world, religions’ leaders have disconnected their own gods.