Politics and Religion - Are the two the same?


ObamaWhen you talk to majority of Africans, you will instantly realize that they either hold strong emotions for or against politics. Some embrace politics and others simply hate it! They argue that politics is a nasty and dirty thing and that they don’t want to be associate with it! These people, refuse to engage in anything political from reading the politics section of their local newspaper to participating in a political cause. To them, politics shouldn’t exist. The other group, who all they do, talk and aspire too is politics, have made politics a sport. They know all the countries politicians, their tribes affiliations and what party they represent. The above divide, also goes for religion (although to be fair most Africans consider themselves religious and are active participants in various religious activities) but I’ve always wondered, do people really understand these two phenomena’s! What is politics? how about religion? What separates the two and most importantly, how are they similar? Renowned Indian philosopher Mahatma Gandhi once noted that “Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is.” Do you agree with him? Have you ever thought of religion and politics as two entities under the same banner? If yes, share with us. If no, tell us your perspective on these two notions and if after reading the rest of this piece you’ve gained any new insights into the two, share them as well. Politics and religion are two concepts that influence all major decisions and disruptions in the world. Many people might not realize it but the base and root cause of the world happenings depend so heavily on these two pillars. On the outside, they seem to resemble day and night; completely different. In reality, they relate to each other in more ways than one.


Religion is a complete, shared code of conduct for one’s life that shapes up their views, beliefs, and cultural and moral values. Religion defines ethical and moral laws, traditions, rituals, festivals, ways of meditation and prayers, and the very basic concept of right and wrong in your social interactions and dealings. Religion is a pre-dominant part of most of our cultural heritage that includes symbols, art, literature, music, and traditions.


Politics is a term that defines the science of conducting state affairs including governments, institutions, and all interest groups in a society. Politics is a social phenomenon that includes tactics and policies. There are four basic views that define politics.

The first view defines politics as the art of government;  stating that politics comprises of  all actions that the state governments undertake. The second view regards politics as public affairs, stating that the public affairs of any kind come under the category of politics. Another train of thought presents politics as a way of achieving compromise and consensus while making decisions regarding different life spheres.The last theory views politics as power struggle that takes place at all levels of social interactions in the society be it political, personal, or family interactions. This theory offers the most comprehensive scope of the concept of politics when compared to the other views.

The modern democratic view of politics highlights the relationship between people and politics, indicating it as a way that allows people to choose their own government and make policies with their consent. While the democratic view seems like a perfect option, the existence of a complete democratized government still remains a matter of controversy.

Keeping in view the literal meaning of politics, a politician is a person who is either actively involved in running or conducting business for a political entity or aims to do so by any means. However, the true scope of the word goes well beyond this simplistic meaning in today’s complex political structures.


The Development of Politics through Ages

Politics has evolved greatly over time from being a system that focuses power on a single authority to a system that works through and for people. In the past, the concept of state was common, with one ruling entity that was the monarch.

The monarchy was the longest form of political setups. Earlier, the monarch had absolute power regarding all the decisions of the state. The decisions of the monarch were highly influenced by the clergy and noblemen class of society, whereas the common men had no say in the decisions. The monarchy system was brought to a major halt with the French Revolution which allowed the people to see that there are other ways of ruling a state.

Gradually, the political system started to evolve such that it delegated power to people to select their own ruler while the power of making decisions was divided among several entities on a democratic basis. Even though the monarchy still exists in some countries of the world, it does not hold the absolute power solely, as it did in the past times. Politics today is regarded as a system “for the people and by the people”.

How Politics Affect People

Many of us believe that politics does not affect our lives; it is a system beyond our lifestyle scope. However, the fact is that politics has always affected the life of people. It is the major determinant of progress and lifestyle of people. The cost of living is hugely dependent of our country’s political structure. Political entities hold the power to determine the taxes we pay, the income we earn, the education we receive, and even the products we consume by means of laws and regulations. An example of this is the soda ban in New York City, where the government is actually controlling the consumption intake of people.

The major purpose of modern politics is to work for the benefit of people.  However, in today’s world politics has become a power play within and among the countries and defines the social interactions that people are likely to experience across different borders. It is the responsibility of politicians to decide how the resources of a community are to be allocated and how the societies can work towards prosperity. To believe that politics does not affect our daily lives is to assume breathing is a luxury.


Politics and Religion – Are they Common

In a way, both our political and religious beliefs are greatly responsible for shaping our behaviour and attitude towards everything in life. However, there are quite basic distinctions between politics and religion.

While politics is a legal way of governing the state, religion is a personal choice.While you are living in a state, its political laws are binding to you. On the other hand, it is unethical to impose religious beliefs on people residing in same geographical entities. Therefore, when a political institution makes laws, it should consider the religious diversity of its society. The recent example of this can be seen in France, where the use of Hijab for Muslim women was declared as a crime. This law goes against the religious-freedom practices that are required to be observed in today’s global world.

There are always some basic morals and beliefs that are followed by almost all religions. There are the values that work towards the betterment of society. While these beliefs can make perfect ground for political decision-making, there is a general practice to allow religious freedom to all citizens of a state. It is not ethical for political entities to force laws on people that go against their religion. It negates the concept of democratic government. Religious minorities make up a substantial part of all countries in the world today and their religious rights cannot be compromised for any reason.

Politics and religion are both, in some way, interdependent on one another. It is the political structure that governs and maintains the religious groups of a society. Religious institutions are provided with funds and grants to function by political institutions and political laws require some sort of acceptance from these religious entities before passing.

Bottom line is that the two concepts remain the major ruling forces in our lives. While one provides us with legal limitations, the other provides us with our moral code of conduct. Moral and behaviour limitations and control. Understanding the right and wrong for both is essential for us. We must embrace the two as they play a key role in our lives. We cannot say that we hate politics or religion then complain about the state of things today. We have to open our ears and mind’s to the two, support and challenge both institutions whenever necessarily.

NB/ Story to be continued, enjoy the basics By @RasMutabaruka