Religion The State And Sovereignty Essay

Religion, The State And Sovereignty Essay, Research Paper

Religion, the State and Sovereignty The influence of religion on humankind can be traced back to thefirst records of history. Religion has served as a pillar of strengthto some and binding chains to others. There are vast amounts ofinformation and anthropological studies revealing the interaction ofreligion and humankind. However, for the purposes of this paper, thetime periods of study will be broken up into three sections. Eachsection will give a general description of how religion affected theinstitution of the state and its Sovereignty in a Euro-centricperspective. The first period is the early period, which will encompassfrom Christianity and the Roman Empire to the Medieval times (approx.311 to 1100 A.D.). The second period will include the Renaissance, theReformation to the Treaty of Westphalia (1101 to 1648 A.D.). The thirdand increment of history will range from 1649 to 1945 A.D. The date 311 A.D. marks the issuing of the “Edict of Toleration”for Christians. This date is important because it symbolizes “national” acceptance of Christianity, and planted its roots as a politicalinstitution. Later the Roman Empire on the verge of internal collapseacknowledged the importance of Christianity and used it to holdtogether the remnants of it former self. This adoption of Christianitytook form and eventually became the Catholic church. The church became intermingled with politics and became a strongentity. The policies delivered from the church had more authority thanthe local rulers and magistrates of the developing feudal system. Forexample, St. Augustine wrote about war and what justified its enactmentagainst fellow men. This policy was followed and adhered to forhundreds of years after St. Augustine wrote it. Another example, is the use of the Bible as a guideline forestablishing governing systems. Scripture portrayed God as choosing theking of the people. The pope, being God’s “representative” was thengiven the authority to crown the king. This crowning process gave thepope large influence in the political arena. This ritual continued fora number of centuries. The Crusades, which occurred around 1100 A.D., played a crucialrole in challenging the church’s authority. The pope identifying thespread of Islam as evil requested all of Europe embark on a “Crusade” todefeat the infidels. As the battles were fought, great treasures werefound in the form of books and knowledge. These books were crudetranslations of old Greek texts, containing information which wouldeventually produce the waning of Church authority in the future. The Renaissance marked the beginning of intellectual re-birth. Writers such as Dante, Machiavelli, Guiarccidini, Vitoria, etc., allattempting to reform and some even contest church dominance. Dante inhis imaginative work “Inferno” writes of hell which he envision is thepope’s final destination. Machiavelli takes a more direct roleclassifying the actions of a prince to be above morality and ultimatelyabove the Church. He continues the affront by classifying a humancharacter of “virtu” as being completely centered around man (humanism). The Raison D’ Tat is supreme especially in terms of the churchbelligerence. In the middle of the Renaissance, the Church was dealt a deadlyblow from which it would never recover. This assault came via MartinLuther. His work, “95 Thesis”, marked the beginning of the Reformation. This movement split the church into Catholic and Protestant sects. Itmarked the beginning of a bloody period which virtually split Europe inhalf. Examples of the conflict raged between Protestants and Catholicsfrom the great slaughter of Protestants in Paris 1572 A.D. (7000 dead)to the Thirty Years War. With the Church in disarray, freedom was givento the “state” to begin to develop. During this period of Renaissance the political identity wasgoing through a tremendous transformation. This transformation tookform in what is called Absolutism. “Princes” began to tolerate less and

less manipulation from the church. The political entity in the form ofmonarchy began to wean itself from the Church for its legitimacy andlooked toward its own power. Other writers began to rise and discuss issues of sovereigntyand the state. Thomas Hobbes discusses the state and refers to it as”Leviathan” which is the concurring title of his work. Believing man tobe evil, Hobbes fashions his description of the state as the mechanismto control and harness the capabilities of man. There can be no peaceas long as there is not absolute surrender to reason. The state’sinterest is supreme, as well as, its authority. These ideas werewritten in direct opposition to the church and its history. Hobbesdesired a complete refutation of the Church’s influence in government. Hobbes portrays a state as sovereign. The sovereignty of thestate is in direct relation to its longevity and basic existence. State sovereignty must be perpetual and supreme. The authority of thisdescribed state would over-shadow the authority of the church. Continuing historically, the development of the thirty years warwas significant in its unique result. The treaty of Westphelia was theagreement which not only settled the war, but gave absolute authority tothe sovereign of each individual state. This was accomplished bygranting the sovereign the right to choose which religion he/she desiredand that in turn transferred down to the people. Thus, once again theauthority of the church was restricted, however this time by theemergence of an institution called the state. During this period states begin to develop colonies andexploration of the new world. The discoveries and travel furtherchallenged church authority. An example of this is the well founded”scientific” fact that the earth was flat. After such journeys byColumbus and Magellan, the concept of church’s monopoly on truth wasattacked once again. The third period in history starts with the age of reason. Itsintellectual basis of the time period is science and natural law. Empiricism plays a fundamental role in church legitimacy. Factualconcrete proof of God and his work is not provided by science. Statesbegin to mature politically as colonial powers. The Church or ratherthe concept of religion is still strong but begins a transformationduring the Enlightenment. From Religion ideas of morality and naturallaw arise. Locke addresses the role of the government of a state. Heportrays the ideas of a social contract between the people and itsgovernment. He continued by pointing out that the government has acommitment with the people it must with hold. Locke’s writings alsocontained concepts concerning of natural rights which are inherent tohuman beings. This developed and identified that power now comes fromthe people. These people from which the government is derived and power(legitimacy) have rights and will be safe-guarded by the people. The French and American Revolutions harnessed the ideas whichthe enlightenment wrote and discussed. The French Revolutionexemplified the early stages of nationalism. Nationalism derives from agrouping of people who share common cultural and social experiences. >From nationalism the concept of self-determination is derived. Phrases like,” We the People. . .” began to show up in constitutions anddeclarations, which showed consensus among people with like-mindedpurposes. The inception of positive law was the last and final blow to theconcept of religion. Positive law is fashioned and codified by man. The law has replaced the concept of morality. The framework which lawscreate make the state and its sovereign powers legitimate and legal. States no longer operate in terms of what is just but on whether thelegality for the action or jurisdiction have application. The evolution of the state and its sovereignty is clear. TheChurch once being a dominant political factor has been reduced to a merewhisper of advice. The influence of religion in instituting or in theelective process of choosing a representative ruler has been severelyminimized. Sovereignty and the institution of the State has surpassedpredestination and Divine Right of Kings.


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