Santa Clara University


Religion Ethics and Politics by Country and Region

This section describes how religion and ethical issues influence the politics of various countries and regions of the world. The analysis builds on the second chapter (pg. 47-69) of Eric O. Hanson’s Religion and Politics in the International System Today which discusses the political perspectives on the relationships of religion and politics at four levels: local, national, regional, and global. Each national and regional entry includes four sections.

Four Levels of Analysis

Local: Diffused Religion in Local Politics. In this traditional relationship, “the religion of the village is the life of the village.” It is very difficult to separate the political and the religious sections of life, either in the rural villages or the urban neighborhoods of the Developing World.

National: Four Relationships between Religion and Politics at the National Level:

  1. Dominant religions can offer a “Sacred Canopy” legitimizing state power;
  2. State and religious organizations can battle for expressive and instrumental power within the nation;
  3. Religions can compete for national power;
  4. Religious groups can seek to control the national culture.

Regional: This section (pp. 56-60) examines the thesis of Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations. The thesis is found wanting on several points. For example, there are different general approaches to religion and politics in various regions. For these, the reader of Hanson should see chapters on The West (Five), East Asia (Six), South Asia (Seven), the Middle East and North Africa (Eight), and Latin America (Nine). Material on sub-Saharan Africa is presented throughout the book.

Global: At the international level, the book’s analysis focuses on social justice in the economic system, peace in the military system, personal and communal values in the communication system, and human rights in the political system.

Four Sections for each Entry

For each of the thirty-five countries and ten regions, this section has an entry in five sections:

1. Introduction to Religion and Politics
2. A Short Introductory Course on Religion and Politics
3. Other Key Resource Materials for Religion and Politics
4. Recent News Articles on Religion and Politics

Introduction to Religion and Politics

This section offers a short introduction to the major contemporary political-religious issues in the country or region. The challenge in writing these entries has been to decide what to leave out. Hopefully, the general reader or the specialist in another field, for example, economics, can get a quick introductory orientation to the materials. Some of the statistical data, where particularly relevant, includes the country’s population often from the CIA Factbook , the population rate of growth, the percentages of different religious traditions, the ranking on the U.N. Human Development Index and the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International . Some other relevant web databases are the World Bank's World Governance Indicators, Freedom House's yearly "Freedom in the World" reports, the Worldwatch Institute's "State of the World" annual reports for environmental issues, and the World Christian Database for religious statistics. The website author realizes, of course, that even the most quantitative evaluations are based on numerous qualitative judgments that are open to debate. These brief introductions for each entry, of course, represent partial, up-to-date summaries of the final four sections of those entries.

Apologies to those regions and countries not yet listed. Since this website is the work of a single person, it will take time to add all countries. Regional entries have the advantage of bringing together materials from separate countries. These regions and countries definitely influence each other, for example, Brazilian Catholicism influences that Catholicism globally and all religious traditions throughout Latin America. Shiite Islam in Iran has become more and more important throughout the Middle East, even among Sunnis. In all these entries, the specialist should ask herself if the treatment is fair and if it selects the right considerations for its brief length. The editor would be most happy to consider changes to his choices.

Religion and Politics in the International System Today (345 pages) included material up to October 31, 2005. As such it included, for example, entire chapters on contemporary political-religious issues in the West, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and Latin America, with some material on sub-Saharan Africa. The author was making the same type of selective decision employed in this website: What are the most important facts for the reader to know out of the myriad of political and religious issues? So the materials in this section of the website existed in a connected 345-page format in the book at that time. For those who have the book, this first section lists the relevant pages for the country or region. After reading those sections, the reader might want to go to the fifth section below listing recent articles to see what has happened since October 31, 2005 that might be necessary to update his/her understanding.

To view or order Eric O. Hanson, Religion and Politics in the International System Today (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), $26.99 paperback, Click here.

A Short Introductory Course to Religion and Politics

The prior section is designed for those with five-fifteen minutes to think about political-religious issues in a particular region or country. This third section is for those who have time to read three to five books and/or articles as an introduction. The section begins with a description of the readings, so that those who want to explore a single issue can choose that particular book.

Other Key Resource Materials on Religion and Politics

Here is the author’s list of relevant books and articles.

Recent News Articles on Religion and Politics

The New York Times serves as the paper of record for recent events. The author also regularly reads the San Jose Mercury News, Foreign Affairs, Asia Focus, Commonweal, The Review of Faith and International Affairs, and America. In addition, his friends and colleagues bring and send him more articles on religion and politics than he could possibly read. Fortunately, each year he teaches an upper-division course on Religion and Politics in the Developing World and a seminar on Religion and Politics in International Affairs. Hopefully, users of this website will send him the important citations that he has missed.