How Religion and Democracy Struggle (Also, Philosocom's Directory on Religion)
Updated: Sep 11
(For more on what I wrote on religion, here are some articles: https://www.philosocom.com/post/thoughts-on-prayer
Most of the world's countries are democracies, which is great, because never before in human history have so many people enjoyed high degrees of civil and political freedom.
Whether your country is more capitalistic or more socialist in its politics, it does not really matter as you get many freedoms, such as the freedom of expression, the freedom to vote, and so on; freedoms that would have been considered privileges in earlier times of human history.
However, when religion is introduced into official rules, there is a competition with democracy. Should the laws of said religion threaten the freedoms introduced by democracy.
That is when people need to decide between preserving religious tradition and liberty in each and every public issue where the two are at odds.
Israel, for example, is a country where there was never a separation between religion and state. That means that, although a democracy, it is also a "theocracy" in a way, as some religious laws are applied here, even though we are a democratic nation.
We have the right to vote for any party that is eligible to run for parliament, but we can't use public transportation on Saturday; we have the right to express ourselves, but we do not have public TV broadcasting during Yom Kippur, AKA, the Day of Atonement.
We are allowed to have any diet we want, but technically it is illegal here to serve pork, and indeed, the only time I ate pork was during my only visit abroad, a long time ago.
One might philosophize, "Why do we even need a public religion to force us to do or avoid things regardless of our consent?"
Why is it important for a state religion to force me not to use public transportation on Saturday and Friday nights? Why aren't people allowed to use private transportation during Yom Kippur?
Why can't we buy whatever we want, despite pork, during Passover? And finally, why can't we marry legally without having said marriage be religious?
Yes, as you can see, those who want to marry irreligiously, have to do so by going abroad to countries such as Cyprus, and when they return to Israel, they have to actually pretend that they were married religiously, because otherwise, their marriage won't be recognized in Israel! In a democracy!
I believe that religion is something that can be practiced even without being the mark of the state. In other words, you don't need the state to have your religion as hers in order for you to perform the rituals, the holidays, the traditions, and the prayers required in your own religion.
I don't see why I, as an irreligious man, can't use public transportation on the weekend, just because you have a religion you can already practice by yourself or among your followers.
I am aware that Israel is a unique case, not only because it is the only Jewish nation in the world, but also because every Jew has the privilege of becoming an Israeli citizen.
Thus, like in the Russian-Ukrainian war, refugees can make Israel their new home as long as they are Jewish themselves. Thus, as a country that was made mainly for the Jewish people, it is only natural to not separate its religious identity, and still be a democratic state.
However, due to the problems between religion and democracy, there is, possibly, no perfect solution to create full harmony between these two values.
If you cancel your official religion, it will upset the population of that religion, and if you cancel democracy, the state will become a theocratic dictatorship without the ability to vote for a party or regent.
Therefore, in one way or another, they would always have to collide with one another, and be balanced by the ruling party, in order to try and satisfy as many people as possible and allow that party to be voted for possibly once more.
After all, in rulership, you cannot please everyone, and that is the same when it comes to said concepts.
However, I still think I should have access to things I have access to regularly, whether or not I am Jewish by religion.
I don't see why the religion of the state needs to limit specifically ME when I am not a part of its targeted audience -- those who identify themselves as Jewish.
By doing so, the state fails to understand that it alienates some of its population, by forcing on them the same limitations that religious people place on themselves anyway.
So, the question is, if the religious are disciplined enough to follow their own path religiously (no pun intended), then why should that path be imposed on the rest of the population?
After all, not all Israelis are Jews, and not all secular Jews have any personal connection with the religion they were born into without their choice.
There is something that I am at least glad no longer exists, at least in my country. Our IDs no longer contain religious identity. I don't know when it was cancelled, but it was missing when I received my first one.
This goes to show, that one's religion could, in a way, be his or her private matter, and not something that needs to be enforced by a country.
That, at least, is my philosophy in that regard.
Again, Jews practiced their religion long after they were exiled from the land, they once called their own, so does it really matter, beyond immigration policies, whether or not countries such as Israel are religious, when they are democracies?
They clash for a specific reason: democracy permits, while religion limits. When freedom is allowed while a specific religion prohibits it, the authorities need to decide: which value do we prefer most?
Should we prevent public transportation on certain days, just because many people might be angry with us because of it, even though many people, like me, depend on it?
Thus, when freedom is preferred over religion, someone might say, "This is a Jewish nation!", But when they say that they fail to understand that it is also a democratic country. Like neighbours who cannot force one another to move, these two values need to just get along with one another.
There is, you see, no hope in sight, no absolute resolution, other than choosing one and cancelling the other.