Free «Higher Politics» Essay Sample

Politics and religion are two institutions which have a great impact on society, social consciousness and social development of communities. Politics and religion have many similarities which help them to influence and direct followers and social groups. For both, politics and religion belief and personal devotion is a part of persuasion because belief carries with it the element of personal conviction by which one is willing to act. Actually, the verb believe has two meanings that should be distinguished. On the one hand, it may refer to an intellectual acceptance of the truth of certain propositions, without any emotional coloring being involved. Many religious people, similar to political leaders, would be hard put to give precise expression in language of their beliefs. Thesis politics and religion are based on similar principles of control and persuasion but differ in their messages and ideologies.

Politics and religion influence people and communities though verbal messages and language means. When they are formulated in language in order to be communicated to other people, they become doctrines-especially if they are not purely personal, but represent convictions held by whole groups. But the expression of a belief as a doctrine depends on more than the belief alone. It also involves the current thought forms of the culture of the believer. One would not express the same belief in the same way in medieval Europe and twentieth century America (Conrad, 2008). The New Testament itself reflects different expressions of the same basic belief at the same period, but in Jewish terms on the one hand, and in more characteristically Hellenistic (Greek) terms on the other. Similar to religion, political doctrine can be formulated and recorded in writing to be handed from one generation to another. It will remain alive so long as its particular modes of expression are understood and so long as it is grounded on a living faith or belief. Belief itself, however, cannot be given from one person to another or from one generation to another. We believe only that which has a believable quality about it that commends itself to us. We do not believe what we regard as inherently unbelievable. Individuals may believe something that on the surface seems impossible but which, on further consideration, we have discovered to be sound (Bataille and Hurley 1992).

The main difference between politics and religion is their message to followers and ideology. Political ideology aims to control political sphere of life while religious ideology controls personal values of individuals. There is little point in admonishing a person to believe something apart from the inner conviction which constitutes belief. Doctrine can clarify one's basic belief and reveal its implications. In many respects, the appeal of Christianity is not as some novel truth but as the true implication of the relation between the individual and God that already exists. The belief is to some extent present, but its significance is only potentially present. In many Christian believers, doctrine remains only implicit. The reality of belief is there with its significant influence on all of life, but the person may lack the ability or the time or the technical capacity to formulate doctrine. At this point he may simply accept the teaching of his church, trusting that if he did work out the implications of his belief he would come out with an answer comparable to that which the great teachers of the Church have formulated on the basis of an equivalent belief. But while the doctrinal expression of belief may give clarity and open new depths of understanding to the believer, in itself it is not equivalent to faith (Conrad, 2008).

Theology is the organizing and systematizing of the doctrines of a religion to make them consistent with each other and relevant to the rest of life. This is undertaken not only for the sake of consistency, but for the sake of clear communication to other people as well. But theology is more than simply assorting, arranging, and clarifying. It means evaluation and correction of doctrine. One doctrine is not just as good as another unless it gives equal expression to the same belief, equal in the sense of being as true to experience and as easy to understand in the terms of its expression. A detached study of doctrines in relation to knowledge as a whole is undertaken in philosophy of religion (Connor, 1997).

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Religion does not necessarily deal with a set of events completely different from those which are the province of science, but it approaches them from an entirely different standpoint. Using again our example of the Israelites' crossing of the Red Sea, the issue is not which of the accounts of it, the scientific or the biblical, is true--implying that only one can be. The question is, rather, whether the scientific account--as complete in its own way as we might wish to conceive it--does not leave out some important consideration of the event, namely, its significance to the people involved in terms of their understanding of life's meaning. Science is a colorless approach to reality--at least, it strives to be. But human life is not colorless, and to consider it apart from its color is to consider it only in part, not as a whole. Some simplify the distinction between science and religion by saying that science tries to answer the how question of life, while religion concerns itself with the why question. This is certainly a truer distinction than saying that science is interested only in facts, while religion is concerned only with values. But the point to be made here is that the answers which science supplies do not eliminate the need for religion, not because science leads us back to where our knowledge fades out, but because many important questions--many would say the most important questions--are not scientific questions at all. They are religious, and only religion can answer them. Expanding knowledge of the natural order cannot usurp God's place because God is not in competition with the natural order (Bataille and Hurley, 1992).

The other similarity between politics and religion is that they control minds of people and shape their preferences and needs. When authorities make conflicting statements, one must somehow evaluate their claims in order to decide which one he will accept. This appraisal can be valid only as one's knowledge of the authorities and their particular subject matter is increased. But as one's knowledge increases, his need for faith and authorities is overcome. New knowledge either shows an authority to be false or misleading, or simply bears it out--actually making it unnecessary. It may be objected that if the pronouncements of an authority have been found to be reliable up to a certain point, this justifies any faith in the balance of the declarations of that authority. But the point at issue is not what one has been able to check in the past, but how he will settle the question at hand. Always a new situation arises in which the authority must be accepted or rejected, but accepted only provisionally until one's own knowledge is adequate to the problem involved. But the principal objection to pitting faith against knowledge is that such a contest comes only from a gross misunderstanding of faith. As one's knowledge grows, his faith should grow, if his faith has been placed in the true God. Knowledge exposes a false faith: it strengthens rather than displaces a true one (Crawford, 2002). That there is place in religion for accepting the word of an authority is not to be denied, just as its place in science is not to be denied; but this is not the primary meaning of faith. Faith does not supply what is missing in knowledge. It helps us obtain knowledge, not as a method, but as an attitude in which learning is made possible. The significant content of our religion is defined not by what we do not know, but by what we know. Similar to pitting faith against knowledge is pitting it against reason. In this it is implied that if faith does not give knowledge directly, it is a short cut in obtaining knowledge. Faith then becomes equated with intuition, in contrast to the process of logical thinking. Reason means thinking things through clearly, while faith appears to be a leap to the conclusion. Contrasted to each other in this way, they cannot be made relevant to each other. Reason has no jurisdiction over faith in terms of criticism or evaluation. Faith is either held to be beyond all criticism or else is regarded as foolishness. The pronouncements of faith can be subjected to no appraisal. Faith, if one accepts its claim, is its own guarantee of its truth; and if one does not accept that claim, he ignores it altogether. Of course, every other claim to truth in life must be evaluated and related to all other claims to truth. Scientific hypotheses are not accepted without some verification through other aspects of experience. Ethical theories are related to facts about people living in society. Philosophy is judged by internal logic and its adequacy to all relevant facts. But religion in its relation to faith is exempted from such a process (Heywood, 2007).

Influenced by religion and politics, individuals do something today not merely because they have done certain other things yesterday and cannot help ourselves, but because it must be done if individuals are to have something else tomorrow on which we have set our minds. The future planned event determines our present course. It is this purposive response to external conditions that is characteristic of life. The conduct of a scientific investigation cannot be understood then in purely scientific terms. Not only preceding events must be taken into consideration, but also-and primarily--the purpose of the scientist. One could, for example, explain a person's walking to town in a purely physical manner: the contraction of the muscles in relation to his skeletal structure that enables him to move his legs and feet. But if we ask the person why he walks to town, it is much more likely that we want to know his purpose: what he intends to buy, or whom he intends to see, or even whether he merely wants physical exercise. Purpose is as necessary to our way of thinking as scientific cause (Heywood, 2007). Conflicts come when the roles are confused, when one attempts to give religious answers to scientific questions, or scientific answers to religious questions. Thus, the statement sometimes heard that there is no God because science has not discovered Him in the natural order is not only misleading, it is nonsense. So, also, the view that religion can supply the factual data of natural phenomena before the time of human history is nonsense. The relation of these two approaches should become clearer as we work through the main points of Christian though (Crawford 2002).

Politics uses the data of the sciences along with aesthetic, moral, and religious experience, appraising them through reason and logic to trace their mutual relations. It seeks to answer such questions as how we know what we do, what life's true values are, and what the nature of reality is. This attempt to see life as a whole is decidedly close to religion, but the two are not the same. Philosophy attempts to be a study in which objective truth can be sought as completely divorced as possible from personal idiosyncrasies. Philosophy can be discussed in the abstract, as though one were not himself directly involved. The attempt to speak abstractly about religion falsifies it, making it something other than religion. Religion is one's complete response to what he regards of such supreme value in life that it demands everything of him, a response seen not only in an internal concern but in the expres- sion of that concern emotionally, intellectually, and volitionally. Religion involves the whole person. To that extent, no religion can be conveyed. One cannot understand a religion thoroughly merely by reading books about it. Doctrine can be expounded. Patterns of response can be described. But religion goes beyond this, because the whole person is religious, whatever his beliefs may be. To be rational means to live in terms of purpose and meaning, and even when the mind cannot define the meaning, its influence continues to be felt in life (Bataille and Hurley, 1992).

In sum, politics and religion are based on similar principles of power and influence but differ in their tools and ideologies. Politics makes the attempt to obtain a comprehensive, coherent picture of life in which all aspects of human experience are fitted together in one over-all view. In religion, ideologies do not change with changing life but remain constant because the aspect of experience to which they refer remains constant. An example, to be discussed more fully later, is the doctrine of the two natures of Christ. The doctrine is held to this day because a better formulation of the central conviction has not been found.


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