When thinking about the relationship between government and religion, I find it easiest to think of the matter in terms of an app that almost everyone knows about: Tinder. The infamous app simplifies the matter to a right swipe (approval) or left swipe (disapproval).
How you think about religion and government depends on where you come from. For those of us from the United States, the separation of church and state is something that is ingrained in us at birth. But try syncing that with the amount of religious dialogue that goes on in the House of Representatives or the Senate. How does a nation claim to be so separate from religion and yet be “one nation under god?” The jury is still out.
Think about India. The world’s largest democracy also claims to be a secular state, but 80 percent of their population practices Hinduism. Pakistan has Islam as its state religion, and 95-98% of the Pakistani people practice it. Why such high numbers? That has to do with the “two-state” theory, where it is believed that the partition of India was largely based on the split of religion. Can two such large prevailing religions exist in the same nation-state? Apparently not.
In perhaps the largest blanket statement ever uttered: religion varies vastly from country to country. People practice differently, governments restrict it differently and how it is perceived by the rest of the world depend on what part you are in. India, for example, bans cow slaughter as cows are sacred in the Hindu religion. Russia passed a law in 2015 banning extremism but especially targeted the actions of Islam. Both India and Russia are enormously large countries and while one has a majority of Hindu practitioners, the other is 75% Orthodox Christianity.
But let’s simplify the matter like Tinder.
According to the Pew Research Center, governments are pretty heavily swiping left. In Europe, there was a 53% rise in government harassment and force against religious groups in 2015. The Middle East-North Africa harassed Muslims at a rate of 75 percent. Those numbers seem unbelievably high, but think about the violent reaction of Europe towards the refugees of countries like Syria and Libya. Does it seem that surprising?
It is the prevailing belief that governments are here to support all members of our society, whether they be from the Islamic or Christian walks of life. Whether that thought comes from moralistic impulses or political theory depends on your own opinion, but it is out of the question: governments are not certainly not feeling down to netflix and chill with religion these days.
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