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Religious politics — the greatest threat to democracy

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Religious politics — the greatest threat to democracy Religious politics are the greatest threat to democracy, more than social or economic inequality, lying politicians, or corruption, all of which are bad enough. Liberal democratic institutions exist to resolve conflicts of interests. Disputes over taxation, land use, farm subsidies, and so on, can be settled through argument and compromise between political parties. Sacred matters, however, cannot. God’s truth is non-negotiable. That is why a militant religious group like Hamas cannot be a democratic political party. In a radical Islamic state, there is no room for debate or compromise. The same goes for Israeli religious extremists who believe their rights are justified by the Bible. Water rights are

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Religious politics — the greatest threat to democracy

Religious politics are the greatest threat to democracy, more than social or economic inequality, lying politicians, or corruption, all of which are bad enough. Liberal democratic institutions exist to resolve conflicts of interests. Disputes over taxation, land use, farm subsidies, and so on, can be settled through argument and compromise between political parties. Sacred matters, however, cannot. God’s truth is non-negotiable.

Religious politics — the greatest threat to democracyThat is why a militant religious group like Hamas cannot be a democratic political party. In a radical Islamic state, there is no room for debate or compromise. The same goes for Israeli religious extremists who believe their rights are justified by the Bible. Water rights are debatable; sacred land is not.

The point is not to try to cure humanity of religious beliefs. The desire to submit to a higher authority, to believe in life beyond death, to divide the world into believers and non-believers, to revile sinners and worship saints, and to celebrate life’s stages with holy rituals is a universal human trait. But such desires belong in churches, temples, synagogues, and shrines, not in political discourse. Religious and political authority must not overlap.

Ian Buruma

Lars Pålsson Syll
Professor at Malmö University. Primary research interest - the philosophy, history and methodology of economics.

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