Religion, Political Development, and Change
Guy Michelat and Michel Simon have noted that "most observers consider the tie between religion and politics a thing of the past." 1 Indeed, social scientists have long predicted a decline of religious influence in advanced, modern societies. Daniel Bell concludes that "from the end of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, almost every sociological thinker . . . expected religion to disappear by the onset of the twenty-first century."2 Yet religion endures. In the United States, overwhelming majorities express a belief in God, and many religious denominations are experiencing record growth. Religion remains a potent force in society. And politics has not escaped its influence.
America's attempt to separate church and state stems from a belief that religion and politics should not be mixed. Supreme Court decisions against government-sanctioned prayer in the schools and state aid to parochial schools illustrate attempts to erect what Thomas Jefferson called a "wall of separation" between religion and government. 3 Despite the theory and the predictions, however, the relationship between religion and politics is enduring and complex. While the close ties between churches and governments have been severed, church leaders demand a voice in the political decisions of society. They have assumed new roles and tactics in their attempt to continue to influence the political development of society. The sociological thinkers referred to by Daniel Bell accurately anticipated the threats to religion brought on by the forces of modernization. However, the presumption that religion's influence on politics would disappear
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Publication information: Book title: Politics and Religious Authority:American Catholics since the Second Vatican Council. Contributors: Richard J. Gelm - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1994. Page number: 11.
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