On the incompatibility of democracy and religion

6 min read

My second post of the year is on democracy and religion. What a way to start the year! I should post on New Year’s resolutions and how to make sure you fulfill them or how to fast effectively in this fasting season—the foods to eat or not, the jokes to crack or not, the places to visit, how to stay off social media, etc. I should share our moving home stories with you, the brutal blows this home keeps giving us. How we spent the Christmas season and New Year’s excited yet exhausted from the move. But nah, I’m writing to you about the world as I see it.

Hey, enjoy the ride. You are here you may as well read the post.

Here we go.

Last year, I wrote a short Facebook post pointing out India’s path to religious ethnocentrism—a phenomenon that’s taking place in supposedly democratic countries—countries that are supposed to allow divergent views to flourish within the parameters of law and reason, the cornerstones of democracy.

Here is the post

India, the world’s most populous democracy is trying its hand on RELIGIOUS ETHNOCENTRISM. Where Hinduism (religion) is going to be used as a criterion for nationality (Indian) excluding 200 million Indian Muslims and 28 million Indian Christians and others.

Same as Trump with Make America Great Again.

Same as Johnson with Brexit.

Same as ISIS with Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi

Same as Hungary with Viktor Orbán. And the list goes on.

The results? Religious intolerance and persecution of the “other”.

What say you proponents of religion in a democracy?  Are they compatible?

As usual, such posts elicit passionate responses. A Christian brother responded passionately objecting to me equating President Trump to ISIS and Al Shabab. He argued and rightly so that Trump hadn’t committed atrocities as ISIS and Al Shabab have. We continued to engage over Facebook messenger and this year he sent me a lengthy response.

As I responded to him, I thought there was enough material in my responses to turn them into blog posts. I have redacted his name and altered or made clear some points.

This was his initial response to my post.

I don’t know what Johnson and Orban stand for or what you don’t like about them, but mentioning Trump along side (sic) ISIS, Boko Haram and Al-Shabab is very absurd to me. Mention to me one thing he did that lines up with what these other thugs did. I’m going to say something now and you or other people that read this may roll eyes and think I’ve gone nuts . . . . Trump is the best thing that happened to America in a long long (sic) time and he is actually just as he promised making (sic) America great again. He is definitely not the most eloquent of presidents, doesn’t have the ‘qualifications’ as we know, not a good history, he is rugged, with too many rough edges but he is God’s tool at these season  (sic) to disrupt and keep at bay the plans of wickedness and evil that wants (sic) to sweep over the US. I hope he wins one more term and you will see after he’s gone and if a democrat (sic) takes over, that’s the beginning of the downhill into the drains for America. There you go, I said it!!! Pick up the stones now people.

On the incompatibility of Democracy and Religion

Hey bro, thanks for your response. No one will stone you here. If they do, they’ll be blocked pronto. I think you misunderstood my post. All those mentioned are trying to use their respective RELIGIONS to make their DEMOCRATIC countries great at the EXCLUSION of others. Religion is a test to qualify some and disqualify others. With Modi, Orban and Trump and others, they use EXECUTIVE POWER and constitutional amendments to enforce religion (Hinduism and Christianity). And with Al-Shabab, Boko Haram and ISIS (Islam), VIOLENCE is being used. My subsequent post about Liberals says the same. Liberals also use religious tests on us. That’s why I posed, are these religious tests or purity tests compatible with democracy? if democracy means the plurality of ideas existing side by side.

It’s a misunderstanding of what a democracy is that gets religious people all riled up. Democracy has blind masks on its eyes. It doesn’t prefer one religion over others. It allows for the flourishing of all religions, ideas and viewpoints regardless of how absurd they are. America’s strength as we know is that it allows for the flourishing of divergent ideas. That’s what makes America great. They (America) will go downhill like other nations have, if they renegade on this idea of plurality and start considering one religion over others or one idea or race over others. That’s what makes nations fail and America is no exception.

Bro, however, what you are advocating for, which most Christians advocate for is only viable and liveable in a THEOCRACY. Theo – God, kracia – rule. Theocracy is where the absolute rule of God reigns. Akin to the Israelites living in the kingdom under the Ten Commandments. Akin to living in heaven with perfected saints. Unfortunately, at present, MOST IF NOT ALL OF US live in nations or states governed by constitutional democracies. Demos – masses (human), kracia – rule.

Therefore, it is virtually and literally impossible to run any country on purely Christian, Hindu, Islamic or even atheistic principles. If you do so, you will exclude non-believers (those who don’t believe like you). And in democratic countries, your religious principles will conflict with secular constitutional principles that apply to both religious and non-religious citizens. When Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta said that being gay is not African, he was imposing his view of Africanness on Africans who might not share the same view. Thus, he violated the cardinal rule of a democracy, which is the pluralism of divergent ideas.

Most Americans believe that America is a Christian nation. Most Kenyans and Ethiopians say the same about their own countries. Nothing could be further from the truth. If by Christian we mean most of the populace, then that’s correct. But to say that our constitutions are purely Christian is alienating and excluding. There is no Christian nation on this side of heaven. This is same when I converse with my Muslim and Hindu friends. This is the same critique I pose to my leftist friends—the liberals. I say the same things to them.

On abortion, Christians, you and I, say No to Abortion, right? But non-Christians don’t adhere to our Christian values. Will we now infringe on their rights to live as they please in the name of our Christian values? No ways. If we do so, we will impinge on rights afforded to them in the constitution. Same thing with same-sex marriage, gender dysphoria, etc. We could APPEAL to them from our Christian values but we cannot IMPOSE OUR CHRISTIAN VALUES on them.

Most religious people look at democracies through the lens of a theocracy. And as a result, get angry and confused when non-religious people don’t adhere to their values. And the same anger and confusion is being meted out by non-believers (those who don’t believe as we do) when we try to impose our Hindu, Islamic, Christian and atheist values on them. Impose being the keyword.

Again, this is the point of my post. Democracies have to divorce themselves from religion if they are to be pure democracies and serve all their citizens and not just those who share their beliefs. There has to be a separation of church and state, of religion and democracy, as our friend put it. And this is not to mean we cower in our four walls. We must use the same rights enshrined in our constitutions to fight back. Religious people of all kinds should be at the forefront fighting for religious freedom for all—Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Animalists, Wachawi (witches), Materialists, and even Atheists.

That’s what grace looks like.

Photo by Fred Moon on Unsplash