Religious Institutions and Democratization

08 Aug 2017

(Caucasus Analytical Digest) The relationship between religion and politics continues to be an important theme disputed and interpreted differently amongst politicians and scholars. The same is true for the relationship between democracy and religion. While there is no general consensus about the topic, everyone realizes the importance of the debates between religion and democracy. As former British Prime Minister Tony Blair eloquently noted, “We need religion-friendly democracy and democracy-friendly religion.”

Many of the theories surrounding this topic focus on the love-hate relationship between religion and democracy. Alfred Stepan (2005) outlines the concept of “twin tolerations” and differentiation, proposing a template that can be applied to all kinds of religion–democracy relationships. According to him, “twin tolerations” means that there is a clear distinction and mutual respect between political authorities and religious leaders and bodies. A country’s ability to implement the principle of differentiation directly affects its successful development of democracy. Searching the inter-linkages between religion and democracy, Driessen (2010) notes that, “Once the core autonomy prerequisites [of democracy] have been fulfilled, there is a wide range of Church–state arrangements which allow for religion to have a public role in political life and simultaneously maintain a high quality of democratic rights and freedoms.” Philpott (2007) observes that, even within the “Third Wave” of democratization, religion has played a tremendously important role in promoting democracy in some places (e.g., Poland, Lithuania and Indonesia) though not in others (e.g., Argentina and Senegal). [...]

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