Why is it Important to Separate Religion from State?
From the beginning of human civilizations, there is evidence that men worshiped a power that they believed is above all. In primitive societies man worshiped nature which provided him everything to live, For example, he worshipped water, rivers, forests, air, fire, etc. In the later civilizations, the worship of a supernatural being referred to as God began. This was common in almost all societies. Even though the concept of god was common, the way they worship, the name they give to the god, their beliefs and cultures differ distinctively.
In the course of time, the way the people worship, whom they worship, and the procedures the people follow turned into a system of a specialized set of beliefs and practices which were agreed upon by a group or sect of people which turned into a religion. Each religion slowly spread along and eventually, they grew in number. Now there are lakhs of religions all around the world. Of these religions a few religions withstood and the majority of the people follow those religions. Christianity, Islamism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. are some of the major religions that people follow and identify themselves.
Religion apart from the way of worship slowly became a major identity of the people. Clashes and conflicts among people on the basis of religion began. The feeling that one religion is superior to another emerged which started leading to religious discrimination, exclusion, and persecution. For example, Hitler persecuted Jews in Germany and millions of people were executed for the basics of religion. No one wishes to get discriminated against and dominated by others or other religions. When a country or state has an official religion this discrimination will be at its peak how in Saudi Arabia non-Muslims don’t have the freedom to gather for prayers or built their worship places. In a country like the USA where Christianity is powerful discrimination against other religions is very prevalent. This clearly shows that if the state supports or officializes a religion the minority or other religious groups of people will have to face its ill effects.
Secularism has different meanings in different countries at different times. The most accepted definitions of secularism are
It simply emphasizes the idea of the “Separation of Religion from a State”. Religion is not involved in the social-economic and political matters of the state. It does not aim to keep religion out of the lives of the people but to treat religion as a personal matter and contain it in the private lives of the people.
This emphasizes that the state will not discriminate nor favor and is indifferent to its citizens on the basis of religion. That means the state must be neutral in the terms of religion. It treats all its citizens equally regardless of the religion they follow or whether they remain to be atheists. The state will not practice or espouse or promote any religion.
Why is it Important to Separate Religion from State?
There are primarily two reasons to separate religion from the state or in other words the necessity for secularism:
Religiously Pluralistic Society: Dominance of the majority
A religiously pluralist society is a society in which groups of people who believe and follow different religions co-exist. They live together and harmony should be maintained between them to achieve a smooth society. In a religiously pluralist society, not all religions have equal representation. One religion can be followed by a majority of people which may emerge as a dominant religion whereas the other religions become the minorities. for example in Islamic majority countries like Pakistan Saudi Arabia or Christian majority countries like the USA, the way people treat other religions and people who follow them is compromised.
In such cases, there will be religious dominance, degradation of other religions, and discrimination of the majority religions against the minorities. There can be extensive incidents like killing the minorities and coercion which means getting things done forcibly. These violate the basic rights which a democratic society guarantees to people. So the religious dominance and possible violation of fundamental rights because of it can be considered as a reason to separate state from religion.
Freedom of religious belief
As discussed above there are many religions. that means there is always influence of religion on people and people tend to are entitled to believe or not believe in any religion. It does not pertain to completely not believing the religion they practice. It can be a religious practice which they practice which may seem extremes to them. For example in India Hinduism had extreme practices like sati and untouchability which are now which were reformed by the people. that means people should have the freedom to reform or deny practices of a religion. If in this case state had control of the religion it might have the power to say that Hinduism cannot be altered and it is compulsory to follow such practices.
In a democratic society it is necessary to protect the freedom of religion of an individual. In other words it is giving the citizens religious freedom. What is religious freedom? Religious freedom is the freedom to exit a religion or to embrace another religion at the will of the citizen and to have the freedom to interpret the teaching of a religion differently. Not every country has all the religions in their societies to begin with. With propagation of religions by various institutions the spread of religions to major parts of the world take place. people who were deprived or looked down in one religion or people who find other religious practices more litigable converted from one religion to another. This resulted in the previously discussed religious plurality.
Now with many religions in one society , people should have the choice to choose any religion to follow or not follow any religion. This is only possible when people have the freedom and liberty to choose their religion at their will. This freedom is necessary for people in a democratic society .
To sum it up briefly to ensure the harmonious existence of many religions together and the people of different religions to peacefully coexist without dominance of one or more religions and to give the people the freedom of religion and religious practices the necessity of the separation of state from the religion is crucial. That means a secular state is ideal to establish democracy.
Question 1: What is Secularism?
The basic and contextual meaning of secularism is the Separation of Religion from a State. That means the religion will not have any interference in the matters of state. The state will not discriminate and is indifferent to its citizens on basis of religion.. It more over gives freedom to choose or follow any religions on their personal wish and belief and tolerance to existing of all religions is observed.
Question 2: What is the effect of religion on state?
Conflicts among people on the basis of religion is prevalent in a multi religious society. The feeling that one religion is superior to other emerged which started leading to religious discrimination, exclusion and persecution. For example Hitler persecuted Jews in Germany and millions of people were executed on the basic of religion. No one wishes to get discriminated and dominated by others or other religions. When a country or state has an official religion these discriminations will be at peak like how in Saudi Arabia non-Muslims don’t have the freedom to gather for prayers or built their worship places. In a country like the USA where Christianity is powerful the discrimination against other religions is very prevalent. This clearly shows that if state supports or officializes a religion the minority or other religious groups of people will have to face its ill effects.
Question 3: Explain the importance of secularism to curb religious dominance?
Secularism enforces a separation between religion and state. With this all citizens are treated equally irrespective of their religion. There will be no official religion for the state which make sure that no religion is given a special importance even though some religions are followed by a majority. It gives the freedom of religion and protects the rights of people to not get discriminated in terms of religion. This curbs the dominant religion to discriminate or mistreat religious minorities.
Question 4: What is freedom of religion?
Freedom of religion is the choice of freedom given to the citizens to follow and practice a religion of their choice. no restrictions can be laid on the people for coercion to follow a particular religion. also people will have the liberty to interpret and understand the religious texts differently. people will have the freedom to the religious practice according to will.
Question 5: How is secularism vital for a democracy?
A democratic society is a society which is ruled by people who are elected by the citizens of that society. Apart from that democracy provides certain freedoms which helps the citizens to live a life with dignity and freedom to express and follow their thoughts. Freedom of religion and no discrimination are crucial stones for a democratic society to be successful. Secularism make sure this happens by separating the state from religion which helps in eradication the discrimination and dominance there by protecting the fundamental rights. It also ensures freedom of religion which is vital in a democracy.
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