THE NEGATIVE ASPECTS OF POLITICAL FUNCTION OF RELIGION: Political Functions

Weber in division of ‘concept of God’ in ancient communities mentions political God that shows the background of political function of religion (Weber at: http://www.ne.jp). Apart from this ancient background, indeed, during history, governments generally favor those religious complexes which can be “used” for political purposes (Holt et al, Op.cit: 206). In relation to the government and politician’s use of religion, we can refer to what Bonapart and other politicians in his government did in France.

For them, ‘the Church is in the state’, whereas ‘the state is not in church’ (Bhargava, 2010: 102). It shows the importance of religion for state and indeed shows the truth in the beginning of secularism age. They didn’t say church is separate of state because they as politicians wanted to use religion. Until now this method has been continued. Although it is partially seen the separation of religion and state, but the separation of religion and politics is not seen even in secular countries.

Today, the function of religion is not the same as the past, there have been changes in each society ever since. In regard to the political function of religion, we can mention to some categories of other writers. Johnstone has mentioned six effects of religion on behavior and attitudes including social values, racial attitudes, anti-semitism, marriage and the family, religious values, and political party affiliation (Johnstone, Op.cit: 76). He has also explained the influence of religion on politics including legislating morality, voting behavior, radical right politics as fundamentalist movement, and different religious political parties in the Third World (see: Ibid, 201).

According to Yinger there are three possible general relationships in society; first, reinforcing relationship with other societal institutions by integrating function and reducing tensions, to the extent that religious norms coincide with political norms. In this regard religion may justify unequal success in gaining rewards and encouraging submission to the ultimate coercive power (i.e. government). Second, religion like an instrument under control of political institutions, as another instrument of coercion will be in the hand of political elites.

Marx’s view of religion, as the opium of the masses, is a perfect summary of this possible relationship between religion and politics. Third, there is a sharp tension between religion and the political system. Here, Political revolution, as the ultimate expression, could even be fomented by religious factions. Here we have religion in competition with state for the allegiance of its citizens (Ibid: 175-176). So, religion is perceived as means of salvation by the faithful, but it is characterized as the opiate of the people by Marxists. What is functional for some may be dysfunctional for others (Abraham, Op.cit: 85).

In addition to what mentioned above, the relation between religion and emotion is important in politics. The connection between religion and emotion is a long and intimate one. Religion has always been a source of profound emotional experience (Emmons and Paloutzian, 2003). In politics this religious emotion and the affect of religion on the emotion is used in various ways, such as fundament of parties, revolution and creation of new state, voting and elections, segmentation, war, politicization, elections, national issue, and charismatic authority etc.

These issues can be divided to negative and positive ones as Wach has classified like this. He argues that ‘the influence of religion, is twofold: there is a positive or cohesive integrating influence, and there is a negative, destructive, disintegrating influence’ (Wach, 1971: 35). So, as it was already mentioned, in respect to social reference of function, there are two types of functions; eufunction (positive function) or dysfunction (negative function). Thus, religion as other social arrangement can have both positive and negative consequences. On the basis of this category, here, we consider the negative aspects of political functions of religion.