Religion should be kept out of politics

Photo by: Taylor Brandon

Religion and the state are two different entities and they should be kept that way.

Israel’s recent appointment of Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have sparked more controversies in an already heavily debated and complex problem regarding Palestine’s right to exist. After being removed from power in 2021, his return is a bit unique since it means that Israel will be seeing the most right-wing and religious conservative government in its history.

Netanyahu’s government is focused on expanding Israel’s settlement in the occupied West Bank, increasing subsidies to ultra-Orthodox allies, and pushing for a judicial system reform which is a growing concern for both Israelis and surrounding countries.

This is already starting as the tourism minister of Israel’s new government has recently promised to invest in the West Bank as a tourist location. Which translates to a deepened control of occupied territory in a (not so) subtle way.

Netanyahu argues that Israel has taken back what was theirs from the beginning and improved it. A debate that goes back decades or even a millennium, with no end in sight.

This begs the question: why is religion still embedded in politics?

If religion and culture overlap, it shouldn’t be a reason to justify political action, nor the justification for the rightful ownership of disputed land. Overall, religion shouldn’t drive political decisions. This isn’t an Israel-only problem, it’s just the most recent example of how dangerous religion and politics can be when combined.

Looking at older examples, however, it’s clear how the combination of religion and politics has always been part of justifying colonialism. For example, the power and influence different Popes held in colonizing the Americas is just the tip of an iceberg of innumerable problems. 

Moral justifications blur the line between righteousness and religiosity when they should be one of their own. Combining both works to further divide the argument and leads to both parties thinking they are in the right.

Another recent example is in the United States. Political parties, more notably the republican party, are driven by Christian and evangelical values. Religion alone is not the problem; it becomes one when it’s centred around politics and gives rise to prejudice towards other religions and discredits those with different beliefs.

This combination of religion with politics seems to further divide and alter the perception of others who don’t follow the same faith. It also leads to prejudices that stem from these alterations; comments towards a country are seen as directed to the religion and comments about the religion are seen as directed towards the country.

This was seen with Donald Trump’s islamophobic and often racist comments, however, these prejudices date back way before his time. Just as there has been islamophobia, anti-semitic comments have been on a rise as well, often derived from said prejudices.

Ultimately, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and should have the freedom to practice them, but their own beliefs should not be forced upon others and guide public policies, and even less decide who should live where.

Religion should not signify order, respect, and goodness after all the conflict it has caused. Religion should be separate from politics, and politicians should be regarded by their own morals and character, not by their religious affiliation.

This isn’t a critique of religion or a political party, but it is a critique of using religion to justify political decisions.

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