Essay, Research Paper: College Paper On Religion


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The influence of religion on humankind can be traced back to the first records
of history. Religion has served as a pillar of strength to some and binding
chains to others. There are vast amounts of information and anthropological
studies revealing the interaction of religion and humankind. However, for the
purposes of this paper, the time periods of study will be broken up into three
sections. Each section will give a general description of how religion affected
the institution of the state and its Sovereignty in a Euro-centric perspective.
The first period is the early period, which will encompass from Christianity and
the Roman Empire to the Medieval times (approx. 311 to 1100 A.D.). The second
period will include the Renaissance, the Reformation to the Treaty of Westphalia
(1101 to 1648 A.D.). The third and increment of history will range from 1649 to
1945 A.D. The date 311 A.D. marks the issuing of the "Edict of
Toleration" for Christians. This date is important because it symbolizes
"national" acceptance of Christianity, and planted its roots as a
political institution. Later the Roman Empire on the verge of internal collapse
acknowledged the importance of Christianity and used it to hold together the
remnants of it former self. This adoption of Christianity took form and
eventually became the Catholic church. The church became intermingled with
politics and became a strong entity. The policies delivered from the church had
more authority than the local rulers and magistrates of the developing feudal
system. For example, St. Augustine wrote about war and what justified its
enactment against fellow men. This policy was followed and adhered to for
hundreds of years after St. Augustine wrote it. Another example, is the use of
the Bible as a guideline for establishing governing systems. Scripture portrayed
God as choosing the king of the people. The pope, being God's
"representative" was then given the authority to crown the king. This
crowning process gave the pope large influence in the political arena. This
ritual continued for a number of centuries. The Crusades, which occurred around
1100 A.D., played a crucial role in challenging the church's authority. The pope
identifying the spread of Islam as evil requested all of Europe embark on a
"Crusade" to defeat the infidels. As the battles were fought, great
treasures were found in the form of books and knowledge. These books were crude
translations of old Greek texts, containing information which would eventually
produce the waning of Church authority in the future. The Renaissance marked the
beginning of intellectual re-birth. Writers such as Dante, Machiavelli,
Guiarccidini, Vitoria, etc., all attempting to reform and some even contest
church dominance. Dante in his imaginative work "Inferno" writes of
hell which he envision is the pope's final destination. Machiavelli takes a more
direct role classifying the actions of a prince to be above morality and
ultimately above the Church. He continues the affront by classifying a human
character of "virtu" as being completely centered around man
(humanism). The Raison D' Tat is supreme especially in terms of the church
belligerence. In the middle of the Renaissance, the Church was dealt a deadly
blow from which it would never recover. This assault came via Martin Luther. His
work, "95 Thesis", marked the beginning of the Reformation. This
movement split the church into Catholic and Protestant sects. It marked the
beginning of a bloody period which virtually split Europe in half. Examples of
the conflict raged between Protestants and Catholics from the great slaughter of
Protestants in Paris 1572 A.D. (7000 dead) to the Thirty Years War. With the
Church in disarray, freedom was given to the "state" to begin to
develop. During this period of Renaissance the political identity was going
through a tremendous transformation. This transformation took form in what is
called Absolutism. "Princes" began to tolerate less and less
manipulation from the church. The political entity in the form of monarchy began
to wean itself from the Church for its legitimacy and looked toward its own
power. Other writers began to rise and discuss issues of sovereignty and the
state. Thomas Hobbes discusses the state and refers to it as
"Leviathan" which is the concurring title of his work. Believing man
to be evil, Hobbes fashions his description of the state as the mechanism to
control and harness the capabilities of man. There can be no peace as long as
there is not absolute surrender to reason. The state's interest is supreme, as
well as, its authority. These ideas were written in direct opposition to the
church and its history. Hobbes desired a complete refutation of the Church's
influence in government. Hobbes portrays a state as sovereign. The sovereignty
of the state is in direct relation to its longevity and basic existence. State
sovereignty must be perpetual and supreme. The authority of this described state
would over-shadow the authority of the church. Continuing historically, the
development of the thirty years war was significant in its unique result. The
treaty of Westphelia was the agreement which not only settled the war, but gave
absolute authority to the sovereign of each individual state. This was
accomplished by granting the sovereign the right to choose which religion he/she
desired and that in turn transferred down to the people. Thus, once again the
authority of the church was restricted, however this time by the emergence of an
institution called the state. During this period states begin to develop
colonies and exploration of the new world. The discoveries and travel further
challenged church authority. An example of this is the well founded
"scientific" fact that the earth was flat. After such journeys by
Columbus and Magellan, the concept of church's monopoly on truth was attacked
once again. The third period in history starts with the age of reason. Its
intellectual basis of the time period is science and natural law. Empiricism
plays a fundamental role in church legitimacy. Factual concrete proof of God and
his work is not provided by science. States begin to mature politically as
colonial powers. The Church or rather the concept of religion is still strong
but begins a transformation during the Enlightenment. From Religion ideas of
morality and natural law arise. Locke addresses the role of the government of a
state. He portrays the ideas of a social contract between the people and its
government. He continued by pointing out that the government has a commitment
with the people it must with hold. Locke's writings also contained concepts
concerning of natural rights which are inherent to human beings. This developed
and identified that power now comes from the people. These people from which the
government is derived and power (legitimacy) have rights and will be
safe-guarded by the people. The French and American Revolutions harnessed the
ideas which the enlightenment wrote and discussed. The French Revolution
exemplified the early stages of nationalism. Nationalism derives from a grouping
of people who share common cultural and social experiences. *From nationalism
the concept of self-determination is derived. Phrases like," We the People.
. ." began to show up in constitutions and declarations, which showed
consensus among people with like-minded purposes. The inception of positive law
was the last and final blow to the concept of religion. Positive law is
fashioned and codified by man. The law has replaced the concept of morality. The
framework which laws create make the state and its sovereign powers legitimate
and legal. States no longer operate in terms of what is just but on whether the
legality for the action or jurisdiction have application. The evolution of the
state and its sovereignty is clear. The Church once being a dominant political
factor has been reduced to a mere whisper of advice. The influence of religion
in instituting or in the elective process of choosing a representative ruler has
been severely minimized. Sovereignty and the institution of the State has
surpassed predestination and Divine Right of Kings.
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