Pervasiveness of Religious Influence

Religion can affect people’s behaviour, their moral choices and their political attitudes.  It is therefore a factor to be taken into account in many contexts, as indicated by the following list:

  • Religious leaders exert moral authority (
  • People try to influence each other’s beliefs (4.3.3), sometimes through religious organisations.
  • People’s religious affiliations have a significant impact on their political choices (4.3.4).
  • Religion is one of the components of ethnicity. Ethnic differences are a major challenge to ‘peaceful pluralism’: the harmony of multicultural societies (4.4).
  • Legal systems can accommodate religious law (5.3.3), and they sometimes have to adapt to religious sensibilities (5.4).
  • Religious fundamentalism can be associated with extreme political conservatism (
  • Religious authority is used to legitimise some authoritarian governments: theocracies (
  • People sometimes vote according to their ethnic identity in democracies (
  • Some religious groups become politically active, lobbying politicians (6.4.4).
  • Religious politicians might not effectively represent those who do not share their beliefs (
  • Religion creates a need for political consultation and affects how that is performed (6.5.3).
  • People’s beliefs affect their participation in politics (6.6.1).
  • Religion can be a force for separatism, as in the partition of India for example (
  • Religious differences are among the political challenges faced by multicultural societies (6.7.4).
  • Religion has been used as an excuse for terrorism (7.3.3).
  • Religion is a factor in political negotiations (6.8.4); religious absolutists might refuse to negotiate (9.6.1).

The length of this list gives some indication of the pervasiveness of religious influence on the exercise of power in society.  The topics shown in bold above are dominated by religion, and it can be one of the factors to consider in the others.   As described above (, people vary in the degree to which they are influenced by their religion and how actively they pursue it; there is a similar variation in its practical importance in all the above contexts.


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