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Religion is Wonderful, So Long As its Institutions Are Separate From Politics

Updated on May 28, 2010

A reader recently accused me of being against Christianity in an e-mail response to an earlier piece, entitled: "Torture Instruments of the Spanish Inquisition." The reader felt that my warning against the dangers of church-state partnerships was somehow derogatory to Christianity. Well, that certainly wasn't my intent. I was raised a Christian. And while I have read at length texts from Judaism, the Koran, Buddhism and Hinduism, I always connected with Jesus. To me, he's best dude who ever lived.

What I am afraid of - and what I will continue to fight against - are partnerships between government and religion. They aren't a good idea. Inherent in them are two problems that no peaceful, just society can endure: government domination of religion or religious domination of government.

The danger of the first was seen in the Spanish Inquisition. There, the State, which provided military protection to the Vatican, threatened to pull those troops out if the Catholic Church refused to approve and support Spain's plan to purge Jewish and Muslim converts from the government (and eventually the entire Spanish Empire). The Church, whose relationship was so intertwined with the Spanish government, eventually went along with the Spanish plan and issued an edict that founded the Inquisition. Under the guise of a religious mandate, therefore, the secular government was allowed to torture or kill as many as 150,000 political enemies under the cloak of God's authority.

The second danger, that of religious domination of government, can be seen all over the world today. One needs only to look at Iran. The Iranian government has been dominated by radical Muslims for almost thirty years. The law of the state is the Law of God. One only needs to look at some of the comments I have received from Iranian readers to gauge the quality of life in that country.

But these are just two examples of hundreds of religious-government joint ventures that have resulted in unspeakable horrors. I will go into some more in my next article, but I am sure that it will offend some people who don't want to face the facts as they are.


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