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God's Rule: The Politics of World Religions

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God's Rule

God's Rule: The Politics of World Religions

Many people may feel that religion and politics do not or should not mix, but the reality of the situation is that they usually do become mixed: religion influences politics while politics in turn influences religion. If the two cannot be wholly disentangled, the question becomes just what sort of relationship they do have and how that relationship can be prevented from becoming dangerous.


Title: God's Rule: The Politics of World Religions
Author: edited by Jacob Neusner
Publisher: Georgetown University Press
ISBN: 0878409106

•  Explains how religion not only influences politics, but is also influenced by politics
•  Provides perspectives from several different religious traditions

•  Half of book is on Christianity; more diversity might have been better

•  Analysis of how religion shapes political power
•  Exploration of how how religion shapes itself in relation to political power
•  Ten essays on different religions and their political contexts


Book Review

This is a complex pair of questions because every religion is different and every religion will find itself enmeshed in different political situations. Thus, no simple set of answers suffices - the reason, presumably, why Jacob Neusner’s recent book God’s Rule: The Politics of World Religions was created as a series of essays by different authors.

The problem for the relationship between religion and politics is that, whatever the specific context, both are fundamentally about power. Religions tend to be very comprehensive in their claims on a person’s life and in the spheres of experience which they address. They are then necessarily about power, just as is politics, which is itself a means of organizing social forces for one end or another.

One might imagine that because both are about power, they might conflict with one another in the exercise of that power; while this is true, the possibilities for conflict can be much more subtle than that. As William Scott Green explains in the books’ introduction:

    “A religion cannot persist if it cannot explain how the exercise of coercive power in the world of immediate experience conforms to, is encompasses by, or at least does not refute the religion’s own theory of how things are or ought to be. Whether or not a religion itself can legitimately deploy force to compel behavior, it must be able to explain how such force is used in its own world. It must show its adherents that it is not mistaken about the world.”
God's Rule

God's Rule: The Politics of World Religions

But what sort of relationship do force, power, and politics have with religion?

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