Fellow TAI blogger Peter Berger is back with an intriguing discussion of religious constitutions. After looking at proposed changes to the Egyptian constitution, Berger analyzes how nations ruled by “religious principles” differ from those ruled by specifically defined religious doctrines. He reaches an interesting conclusion by way of contrasting Britian and the Middle East:
Grace Davie, the always insightful British sociologist of religion, has proposed a very intriguing thesis: Strong establishments of religion are usually bad for both the state and religion. For the state, because those left out are outraged and, if there are enough of them, they may become a destabilizing force. Bad for religion, because every grievance against the state (there always are many) leads to antagonism against the religious institution identified with the state. (I understand that this idea now has followers even in Qum, the city famous for training Iranian mullahs. For obvious reasons they are rather soft-spoken. ) But, Davie further argues, weak establishments can be good both for the state and religion—because it is resented by few people and because it is non-threatening, it can be a public voice for moral policies
Berger’s piece makes for great weekend reading, and his suggestion that a kind of culturally prominent yet institutionally weak faith can do good for public morals is worth pondering. Read the whole thing.