Politics and Religion — Not so Different

Since you’re reading this, you are undoubtedly a person with strong convictions about politics and religion.  Religious and political organizations are naturally quite keen on emphasizing the differences between themselves and their opponents.  In this post I emphasize the similarities between politics and religion, between political organizations and religious organizations.  I am confident that the following statements are true.  What they mean for us as individuals and our organizations is a matter of discussion and personal application.

My apologies to political and religious organizations whose symbols I have not included. Also, the “No ___” symbols are there simply to illustrate the diversity of viewpoints, not to deny the validity of the religious and political organizations in general or in particular, their symbols, or the importance of our voluntary associations.

I. Ideology

  1. Religion and politics are ways we organize and define the world for ourselves.
  2. Religion and politics are ways the world is organized and defined for us.
  3. Politics and religion help us define what is good and what is bad.
  4. Politics and religion help us distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys.
  5. Politics and religion allow some participants to determine rules and enforce the sanctions in their own organizations.
  6. Religion and politics both attract noble people and selfish people.
  7. Religion and politics attract real people, too.
  8. Politics and religion are both divided into competing groups.
  9. Religion and politics both use logos and symbols.
  10. Politics and religion channel instincts for beauty, order, aggression, status, territory, community, and survival.
  11. Religion and politics are both used to justify both barbarism and altruism.
  12. Religion and politics both use stories to remind us of “our” history with “them.”
  13. Politics and religion both use propaganda, a.k.a. education and information.
  14. Religion and politics both have humanistic and theistic versions.
  15. Religion and politics attract both healthy people and unhealthy people.
  16. Religion and politics both attract healthy and unhealthy humanists.
  17. Religion and politics both attract healthy and unhealthy theists.
  18. Religion and politics have both logic-driven versions and faith-driven versions.
  19. Politics and religion both have capital-intesive versions and shoe-string versions.
  20. Religion and politics can justify literally anything.

II. Ideology

  1. Religion and politics attract both the power-oriented and servant-oriented.
  2. Religion and politics produce martyrs and saints, and tyrants and villains.
  3. Religion and politics produce real people, too.
  4. Politics and religion come in many varieties and flavors.
  5. Religion and politics give us something to talk about with our friends.
  6. Politics and religion both can be prostituted to selfish and despicable ends.
  7. Religion and politics appeal to the same huge variety of people.
  8. Politics and religion divide the world into friends and enemies.
  9. Religion and politics can require a PhD or just a bumper sticker.
  10. Politics and religion are both quite selective regarding what stays in short-term memory and long-term memory.
  11. Religion and politics are both subject to the same psychosocial dynamics.
  12. Politics and religion harness and channel the same human drives and energies.
  13. Religion and politics both are characterized by rational and irrational elements.
  14. Religion and politics can keep us from resorting to guns and knives, or justify their use.
  15. Politics and religion employ both warriors and peacemakers.
  16. Religion and politics come in both authoritarian and egalitarian versions.
  17. Politics and religion are often major concerns of the the very same individuals.
  18. Religion and politics are often major concerns of the very same groups.
  19. Politics and religion both come in intellectual versions and popular versions.
  20. Religion and politics need both traditionalists and innovators.

III. Ideology

  1. Politics and religion have both exercised the police powers of the state against their enemies.
  2. Politics and religion have both justified killing millions throughout history.
  3. Religion and politics do mix; they can’t help but mix.
  4. Religion and politics are not strange bedfellows; they’re natural bedfellows.
  5. Politics and religion fulfill essential, complementary, overlapping social functions, many of which are unappreciated or minimized by others.
  6. Religion and politics require staying on message, branding, and sound doctrine.
  7. Politics and religion energize people most effectively around life and death issues.
  8. Religion and politics can be consuming passions, hobbies, and belong on the list with favorite soap operas and football teams.
  9. Politics and religion can be vehicles of hate and condemnation or compassion and cooperation.
  10. Religion and politics both produce leaders and followers.
  11. Politics and religion both include unthinking people who are just plain gullible.
  12. Religion and politics both include a small percentage of people who would totally eliminate the other group’s organizations, leadership, and influence if they could.
  13. Politics and religion both support multiple, large, self-perpetuating institutions.
  14. Religion and politics require both calculating leaders and mindless followers.
  15. Politics and religion both promise their followers happiness and a better life.
  16. Religion and politics both offer futures of challenge, struggle. and self-sacrifice.
  17. Politics and religion both trade on human motives, suffering, and aspirations.
  18. Religion and politics are both consumer commodities.
  19. Religion and politics are both thoughtful, demanding pursuits.
  20. Politics and religion come in both constructive and destructive varieties.

IV. Ideology

  1. Religion and politics both have places for ISTJs, INTPs, ESFPs, INFPs, ESTJs, ENTJs, ENFPs, ISFJs, ESTPs, ESFJs, ISFPs, INTJs, ENTPs, ISTPs, and ENFJs.
  2. Politics and religion come in pragmatic and idealistic versions.
  3. Religion and politics both encourage simplistic, either/or thinking.
  4. Politics and religion are both helpless in the face of chronic, intractable problems.
  5. Religion and politics have downsides that correspond to the dark sides of our natures.
  6. Religion and politics, where cream rises to the top–and shit floats to the top, too.
  7. Politics and religion fulfill many similar, identical, and complementary functions.
  8. Politics and religion both require taboos on certain topics or attitudes.
  9. Politics and religion can both obfuscate and clarify, depending on the situation, the needs, and the leaders.
  10. Religion and politics are both mixed bags.
  11. Politics and religion both accomplish valuable, necessary goals.
  12. Religion and politics necessarily divide us into valuable competing factions.
  13. Politics and religion are both devalued by people who define themselves primarily in terms of one or the other.
  14. Religion and politics universally have Insiders and Outsiders.
  15. Religion and politics both use the full range of rhetorical devices.
  16. Politics and religion both have winners and losers.
  17. Religion and politics attract both the stingy and the generous.
  18. Politics and religion both practice scapegoating and demonizing Others.
  19. Religion and politics both involve dishonesty and deceit.
  20. Religion and politics require money, producing varying degrees of corruption.

V. Ideology

  1. Religion and politics both involve manipulating people and perceptions.
  2. Religion and politics both require compromise and inconsistency.
  3. Politics and religion create both hope and disgust.
  4. Politics and religion foster necessary illusions and self-deception.
  5. Religion and politics have places for both the ignorant and the educated.
  6. Religion and politics both provide career paths for the ambitious.
  7. Politics and religion both engage in bait-and-switch.
  8. Religion and politics are neither polar opposites nor mutually exclusive.
  9. Politics and religion both nurture future leaders.
  10. Religion and politics both can be emotionally rewarding and draining, exciting and boring, meaningful and futile.
  11. Politics and religion both can cost you your soul.
  12. Politics and religion both give people something to live for.
  13. Politics and religion both have think tanks and seminaries.
  14. Religion and politics are both deeply meaningful and just a business.
  15. Politics and relion use symbols that mean things for both adherants and foes.
  16. Politics and religion both are packaged and sold.
  17. Politics and religion both offer a wide array of blandishments and enticements.
  18. Religion and politics both involve women and men of good will, acting according to their best lights–even among our opponents.
  19. Religion and politics both combine ideologies and lifestyles.
  20. Religion and politics are both spelled with eight letters.

To conclude, nothing profound.

  • Live and let live (as much as possible).
  • Play by the rules (as much as possible).
  • Use your words (as much as possible).
  • Thank God for referees. Always.
Advertisements

About Ron Goetz

Author, Widower, Grandpa, Son.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Politics and Religion — Not so Different

  1. Noel Goetz says:

    Comprehensive and laid out in a perceptive and logical order. Well thought out, Well done, and deserving of a greater audience. As with myself, I’m sure everyone will have a bone to pick with a few of your “pronouncements” but heck, it wouldn’t be worth doing, if you couldn’t piss at least a few people off. My only really personal comment in fairness “to some of us” would have been to distinguish religion from a certain religious figure – “Jesus Christ. Son of God.” Substituting Jesus Christ – Son of God, for the word Religion would not have made much sense though, considering that He has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with relationship. Religion sucks. Politics is religion. Thanks for proving the point in such an enjoyable manner.

    Like

    • Ron Goetz says:

      I’ve been wanting to discuss the similarities between politics and religion for a while. I understand why some people are so hostile toward one form or the other of cooperative human behavior, but it gets a little old. Glad you liked it.

      Like

  2. I like what you wrote. Aristotle said that “politics is the highest form of religion.” Concerning the excesses of both, I can only say that if you give men (it usually is men) enough power and too little accountability (or worse yet, secrecy about what they are doing) they will always manage to abuse their power. Speaking as a United Methodist, all our leadership, political, religious or what have you needs to become Accountable Leadership (see Kaiser). Grace and peace.
    Pastor Dayton

    Like

  3. Jay H says:

    The similarities are striking. The biggest difference between religion and politics is that one requires belief in metaphysics. And, based on historical precedence: If one challenges or rejects the metaphysics of religion, one is generally rejected by the religious authorities and their adherents.

    Like

So what are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s