At present, there is a controversy regarding the relationship between religion and politics. Some say that religion and politics are different things. Religion is a personal matter and a man can follow any religion he likes. It has nothing to do with politics. Others opine that religion cannot be separated from politics, as it bears vital influence not only on an individual but also as a source of a social and political impact in a community. And so these two are closely related.
Let us first discuss what religion is and what politics is. Then we shall proceed towards the field of relationship between the two. Religion is a system of faith and worship with a divine discipline in the spiritual world. It is based on the belief that there is a supernatural power that has created this universe and controls it. This creator or controller is worshipped with different names—Allah, God, Brahma, etc. in different religions. Ultimately, all religions express their faith in the same supreme being and love for mankind. So why should persons of different religions quarrel among themselves on the ground of religion? The Upanishads of the Hindus, the Qoran of the Muslims and the Bible of the Christians proclaim the same truth with some outward differences. Of course, there are bigots in every religion. Each of them says that his religion is the best. This has led to bitter feelings and fight amongst themselves.
Politics, on the other hand, is the science or art of ruling a country. It also means people’s views about the government of the country. Thus the region of religion is the spiritual world and that of politics is the material well-being of the people—irrespective of religious differences.
People of all religions will enjoy equal rights and perform their duties to the State. In India, the British government wanted to continue their rule with the policy of ‘divide and rule’ between the Hindus and Muslims. This resulted in the partition of India—Pakistan for the Muslims, and India as a secular State. But the bitter feelings still continue to some extent among the bigots of the two communities.
For the Greeks, ethics and politics were two aspects of a single enquiry. It was the business of ethics to prescribe the good life to the individual; politics, however, determined the nature of the community in which the good life as prescribed by the ethics could be practised. But gradually there came a tendency towards a split between religion and politics. With the development of civilization, life began to be more and more complex, and the split became wider and wider. Now politics has even earned the appellation of ‘a dirty game’ with the power of money and muscle. And that is why it is said that politics is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Nowadays it is taken for granted that even if a good man enters political life, he develops a twofold entity—a political and an individual. In private life, he is sympathetic, honest and truthful, but as soon as he sets his hand on political works, he throws all those qualities away in order to achieve his political ends. At the time of the revolution in Soviet Russia, religion was discarded as the state policy. Karl Marx declared religion as opium, though he admitted that people in unbearable misery take religion as the last refuge.
Sometimes it becomes a part of the State policy to take advantage of the feelings of the people. Machiavelli speaks of religion and morals “as an instrument to be used to his advantage by the intelligent ruler.” How religious feelings can be exploited may be seen in present-day India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and especially among the Taliban extremists. The political leaders fan the fire of fanaticism and the masses are made the tools in their hands. Politics itself is not as bad as the purpose of politics is to protect the people from the burden of their struggle for existence. But when misused by unscrupulous persons, it becomes a matter of contempt. Now, the religion of man that preaches sincere love for man will supply the right type of persons to politics. This is the need of the hour. Thus there will be brought about harmony between religion and politics—politics will be saved from corruption, and religion will have a wider vision.