Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Religion and Regimes: Support, Separation, and Opposition

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

Religion and Regimes: Support, Separation, and Opposition

Article excerpt

Religion and Regimes: Support, Separation, and Opposition

Edited by Mehran Tamadonfar and Ted G. Jelen

Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013, 288 pages, $95.00, ISBN: 9780739176108

This book is highly informative for scholars and students interested in comparative politics and religion. In its explication of how religion affects politics, or the question of the role of religion in politics, it can be seen as an excellent source. In fact, one of the distinguishing features of the book is that, in all its chapters, the authors provide a brief historical background of the countries under analysis, which is extremely helpful in understanding the case studies. This book can be used as a handbook of state-religion relations in 15 countries, in particular it is useful for those who are determined to understand how market models of public religion theory explain state-religion relations. Moreover, since the chapters are written based on sociological analyses, the model can be applied to other case studies. In fact, the primary purpose of the book is to show the validity of market models of public religions, briefly meaning that while the dominant religious traditions seek privileges in society as well as in state, minority religious groups seek autonomy from the state and advocate religious pluralism due to its less advantageous status. According to the model, in a secular nature, however, religious competitors would seek hegemony over others.

In all of the chapters, the authors discuss whether the states in question support or oppose religion, and they examine the feasibility of the separation of religion and state in the real sense. Moreover, the authors compare their cases by using different methodological approaches. For instance, they apply both quantitative and qualitative methods, and for research design, choose the most similar cases of the religion-state relation, regardless of differences in the religions themselves, or cultural, political, or geographical differences, as in their comparison of Iran and Poland (chapter ten).

Scholars who study religion in comparative politics and international relations often criticize modernization theory and argue that religion has been neglected. However, this book challenges modernization theory and suggests that religion has to be taken seriously in politics and state affairs since secularization policies have not succeeded in privatizing religion. The chapters show that governments do not ignore the religious sphere in general. Furthermore, some governments support a dominant religious tradition, while others severely oppose religions as a whole, and some tolerate religions and give them a limited space in their considerations.

The book's approach to explaining state-religion affairs is more sociological and cultural than legal or institutional. In other words, how the role of religion is defined in a constitution is not the primary concern of the authors. What is more important are the historical experiences and dominant traditions that determine the role of religion in the given states. The modest argument of the book is that the majority or plurality of religious traditions plays a crucial role in whether a state will support or oppose religion in public sphere. It shows that even if a separation of religion and state exists constitutionally, separation in the real sense does not prevail even in the most anti-clerical state. In other words, what determines state policy for or against a religion is the degree of religious influence in the society.

Regarding the book's theoretical conceptualization, Mehran Tamadonfar and Ted G. Jelen revise three market models of public religion. First, the 'Quasi-Establishment' model theorizes the condition when a dominant religious tradition seeks its privileged status in the competitive and pluralist religious market. The authors claim that the United States, India, and Brazil are examples of this model. …

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