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posted on 15 March 2017

Church vs. State

Written by

What’s the relationship between church and state? What should it be? These questions have been haunting most of the world for the past 2,000 years at least. As a worldwide religious war between Christianity and Islam is brewing, there is no better time than now to profoundly answer these questions.

1. Organization of People

The image below highlights my theory of "Organization of People". It is a meshed network, with religions (or churches) and countries (or states) interposed, reflecting the two major ways people are organized:

  1. By country: For example, both France and America accommodate multiple religions.
  2. By religion: For example, there are Christians and Muslims in multiple countries.

1.1 Country

The first civilization by country is Egypt, which started about six thousand years ago. China boasts of having a civilization of five thousand years. For more, read: Civilizations.

1.2 Religion

The first well documented [and organized] religion is Judaism, which started about three thousand years ago. However, many Gods (e.g. Sun God, Moon God, and Water God) existed way before that, in order to explain what was, at the time, beyond man’s comprehension.

After the written languages were developed, some "scholarly" people started documenting and theorizing their own beliefs, and even creating their own God(s), resulting in several holy books, such as the Torah (Judaism), the Bible (Christianity), and the Qur'an (Islam).

For more on the origins of Christianity and Islam, read Section 5.

2. Country vs. religion

At the highest level conceptually, country and religion have the same goal: organization (or control) of people. Therefore, they often conflict and even collide. As religion came later than country, it has been used to either subvert (more often) or justify (less often) the government of a country.

Here is the general dynamics between country and religion: as a religion grew, it tried to gain additional power over its subjects, thus interfering with the country (e.g. a monarchy or a democratically elected government). When people lose confidence in the government, they tend to be more religious. On the other hand, when a country is prosperous, religion tends to lose prominence.

A country typically has an army, but a religion usually does not. In the past, there were some notable exceptions, with religions commanding large armies. Two examples:

  1. Christianity: Many Christian armies were recruited during the Crusades.
  2. Islam: Many Muslim armies were assembled across countries during the Muslim conquests under the Ottoman Empire.

3. Country and religion

Different countries treat religions differently. Six examples:

  1. China: Historically, the Chinese Emperor is called the "Son of Heaven" (天子), and the world is "All under Heaven". Other than that, there has never been a significant [organized] religion in China over the past 2,000 years, at least. As a matter of fact, today's Chinese government is the most religiously tolerant in Chinese history.
  2. Japan: The Japanese Emperor is also called some kind of the "Son of Heaven", likely a copy from China several thousand years ago. However, the Japanese cleverly created a religion called Shinto, with the Emperor being its holy head. As a result, the Emperor is both the head of the state and a living God! This system has been working remarkably well in Japan for more than two thousand years, resulting in not only a powerful country, but also the longest monarchy in human history (i.e. more than 2,000 years and counting)! For more, read: Human History: China vs. Japan.
  3. Roman Empire: It was a dramatic fusion of imperial power and religion (e.g. Christianity) in its later years. The [Western] Roman Empire died some 1,500 years ago, but its footprints are still everywhere, with the old adage "all roads lead to Rome" still being true today, literally: the Vatican is located inside Rome!
  4. Byzantine Empire: This vast empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, lasted for about 1,000 years after the [Western] Roman Empire ended in 476AD, with Christianity as the key to hold the empire together.
  5. England: Different kings (or queens) treated religions differently, but Henry VIII carried it to the extreme. After the Pope refused to sanction his first divorce, he separated the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church, and declared himself its supreme head, with its own rules more to his liking. Moreover, "the English 'Call for Toleration' was the turning point in the Christian debate on persecution and toleration." For more, read: Religious persecution.
  6. America: The U.S. Constitution ensures religious freedom (First Amendment to the United States Constitution). Additionally, state and religion are supposed to be separated, although there have been some worrisome trends in recent years blurring the lines. For more, watch the short video below.

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Likewise, different religions treat countries differently. Two examples:

  1. In Iran, the head of the government is actually the head of the largest religion (i.e. Shia Islam). As far as political power is concerned, it has little tolerance for other religions (e.g. Christianity) or even the other faction within Islam: Sunni Islam.
  2. While some religions have been beneficial for a country (as well as for mankind), others have often been used to deny logic and science, with negative consequences, such as falling behind in social evolution.

Finally, just like there are wars between countries, there are wars between religions. Furthermore, just like there are wars within a country, there are wars within a religion, such as (1) Catholics vs. Protestants within Christianity and (2) Shia vs. Sunni within Islam.

It is difficult to assess if the overall effect of religion has been beneficial for mankind. Certainly more people have been killed in the name of religion than for any other cause.

4. Discussion

Throughout the world, different relationships between church and state exist for different reasons. Let's focus on four regions:

  1. The Far East.
  2. The Mideast.
  3. Europe.
  4. America.

Let me highlight each.

4.1 The Far East

There is virtually no issue of "church vs. state" in this region. Two big examples:

  1. China: There is only state, but practically no church (i.e. organized religion).
  2. Japan: Church and state are practically one, entirely Japanese.

There is one major exception: the Philippines, with about 80% of its population (i.e. about 80 million people) being Catholics, as a result of colonialism for hundreds of years. Below is a short video, reflecting the recent situation over there.

4.2 The Mideast

It's a melting pot, with three major religions (e.g. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) claiming Jerusalem to be a holy city.

Four examples:

  1. Jews: Before the state of Israel was created in 1948, the Jews did not have their own country for at least 2,000 years, through which they were held together mostly by Judaism, their own religion.
  2. Israel: No big issue for now, as church and state are practically one. However, as the Palestine population grows, Israel may eventually have to choose between democracy (i.e. one per, one vote) and the "traditional" Jewish way of family living and hierarchy.
  3. Iran: This religious country does not own its religion (i.e. Shia Islam), which means, among many things, conflicts with other countries over religions (e.g. Sunni Islam and Christianity).
  4. Saudi Arabia: This country is still a monarchy, which is obviously out of date. Its main religion is Sunni Islam, which means it will never get along with its neighbor: Iran, a Shia Islam country.

4.3 Europe

Its history is full of wars between countries, with Christianity often playing a big role (e.g. Catholics vs. Protestants). As more and more Muslims migrate into Europe, a lot of new problems are surfacing in a clash of cultures and religions. Two examples:

  1. France: It is officially a secular country without a state religion. A big question: to what extent will it continue to separate church and state?
  2. The U.K.: Its state religion is Christianity. A big question: to what extent will it "tolerate" a fast growing religion like Islam?

4.4 America

America is exceptional - Can any country be more exceptional than America, which was founded with neither a king nor a pope?

Our Founding Fathers instituted, among many things, two great policies for America:

  1. Religious freedom.
  2. Separation of church and state.

If we, Americans, are misled and try to amend these two great policies, we may end up being like the rest, ultimately proven to be not exceptional at all.

4.5 Summary

Throughout human history, most countries have been in a constant power struggle between two authorities: king (or queen) vs. religion. Religious power tends to get stronger with a weak king, while a strong king often diminishes religious power.

The power struggle remains little changed after a monarchy is replaced by a republic: It just becomes a republic government vs. religion.

Unfortunately, most republics with democratically elected governments have proven to be untrustworthy, with ridiculously low approval ratings. As a result, people turn more to religion for support, which is true today not only in America, but also in the Mideast. For more, read:

  1. Religions.
  2. The Middle East ABC for Americans.
  3. The Bible vs. the Constitution.

5. Origins of Christianity and Islam

Two informative readings:

  1. Did the Romans Create both Christianity and Islam?
  2. The True Authorship of the New Testament. Below is an excerpt.

Professor Bruno Bauer, in his work of 1877 "Christ and the Caesars", stated that he had concluded that the Romans had authored the New Testament and that Flavius Josephus was the inventor of Jesus.

For more discussion on this subject, stay tuned for my future publications.

6. Closing

The subject of “church vs. state” is complex. Fortunately for China and Japan, it has never been an issue. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, it has been a contentious issue since the start of the first religion!

Now, please sit back and enjoy the video below.

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