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Is any global religious system in political harmony with Western-style democracy, or only a few systems? Today, this topic raises a lot of controversy. For example, there have been arguments for an end to religion in Western-style democracies. Even though it is difficult to track the growth of religion, the most prominent religions in the West have been on the decline. As a result, religious leaders in Western-style democracies have recently become a very important issue. The purpose of the reflective essay is to shed more light on the debate from a secular point of view.
The fact that the rule of law triumphs over religious doctrines is the major contributing factor to the end of religion in the Western style democracies.
In a Western style democracy, citizenship is not defined by compliance with an approved religion or a government endorsed religious system (Legutko, 2016, p. 187). On that note, “religion is not…a constitutive element of citizenship” (Arthur, Gearon, and Sears, 2010, p.12). Therefore, in such democracies where secularism is the norm, religion has become less important and weaker when compared to the principles of democracy. For example, according to British Social Attitudes surveys, there is a decline in the number of Anglicans in the UK (Stourton, 2015). The survey claims that the proportion of Anglicans reduced by 11% from 1983 to 2004 and by 12% between 2004 and 2014 (Stourton, 2015). The statistics only reinforces the fact that the old marriage between religion and Western culture has been affected by democracy. In other words, the doctrines of democracy have superseded religion.
Liberal democracy is an ideology that has been collectively embraced in the Western world. Conversely, the notion that the state may not reprimand citizens who conform to specific religious systems that are not popular has been universally adopted as well. Furthermore, according to Stern (2017), “liberal democracy citizens enjoy the freedom to express their religious views, and to form institutions consistent with those views, without fear of punishment or civic disability.” These are some of the arguments currently being used to support the view that there is an end of religion in the Western democratic societies. For instance, earlier it was believed that countries such as the US were resistant to this kind of secularisation. However, recent surveys revealed that there was a decline in the number of people associated with religion. The study revealed that the number of US citizens who identified themselves as Christians fell from around 78.4% to nearly 70.6% between 2007 and 2014 (Pew Research Center, 2015). This might be an indication of a decline in religion in the Western democracies such as the US. Furthermore, the number of adults, for example in the US, who do not identify with a religion, is growing (Pew Research Center, 2015).
The argument can also be supported by the fact that Islamic countries, which are mostly non-democratic have strong religious ties compared to Western nations such as USA and Europe (Islam and Islam, 2017, p.1). This has been mainly attributed to the fact that the Western style democratic systems cannot compel a citizen to participate in a certain religious activity or attend a worship service. In contrast, non-democratic countries, for example, Saudi Arabia have strong religious connections because of a strict authoritative system that compels citizens to participate in Islam (Haynes, 2015, p.72). This might be the reason why the proportion of US citizens who consider themselves as religiously unaffiliated soared more than six points, from nearly 16% to approximately 23% (Pew Research Center, 2015). Therefore, this could support the argument that there is an end of religion in the Western democracies.
Despite the growing evidence showing a decline in religion in Western style democracies, a section of scholars has refuted the claims (Stourton, 2015). For instance, although the Western democracies offer strong values, they are largely “post religious and tolerant”. According to this view, there is nothing like the end of religion in the West, instead, the style of governance in such states is one that involves respecting the opinions and feelings of others. In other words, the West has created an environment where people's religious feelings and views are tolerated. This has created an impression that religion is not strong in such societies. For instance, Lord Sacks offered an opposing view to the arguments by stating, “If you live within a secular society, it is easy to assume that religions will simply wither away…” (Stourton, 2015). According to Lord Sacks, respect of the rule of law does not necessarily prove that there is an end of religion.
Some scholars have also refuted the claim that a growing number of people who are not affiliated with any religious group suggests that there is an end of religion in the West. In their arguments, they claim that the West has been experiencing an increasing interest in religious themes beyond the scope of theism (Meister, 2017). The growing interest in more than one religion could be the reason behind the increase in the number of people who are not affiliated with a specific religion. In other words, more individuals are becoming aware of religious diversity and this does not necessarily mean that religion is weakening in the Western style democracies (Meister, 2017).
The paper has presented an argument regarding the end of religion in the Western democratic societies. This is an important issue given that religion is vital in modelling behaviour. According to the paper, the fact that the rule of law supersedes religious doctrines could be the reason to the weakening of religion in the Western style democracies. If this is the case, and it is true that religion is on the decline, it could have a negative impact on the society, more so with regard to morals.
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