Political Influence by Religious Organisations

There are several recent examples of political influence by religious organisations having an effect on how politicians behave.

A political system may have formal mechanisms for religious representation ( but, less formally, a religious organisation can exert moral influence at a high level.  Politicians listen to religious leaders because the latter are seen as commanding popular support.  For example:

  • Pope John Paul II made effective use of his global status by travelling the world – addressing the people and talking to governments. As reported by The New York Times, his visit to Poland in 1983 is credited with helping the Solidarity movement to topple General Jaruzelski’s oppressive government: Pope helped bring Poland its freedomThe symbolic power of the papal visit to Iraq in 2021 is another, more recent, example.
  • Pope Francis also exercised moral leadership by addressing crowds and through publication. His exhortation Evangelii Gaudium included the following sentence (at the start of section 53): “Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality”.

Non-religious people have no groups that can be as powerful as the political influence by religious organisations, a fact which causes them concern.  In chapter 1 of The God Delusion [pp. 44-45], Richard Dawkins asked “What is so special about religion that we grant it such uniquely privileged respect?”  One practical reason was given earlier ( “Religious authority is unique.  It has absolute and unquestioned primacy in the eyes of religious believers.”


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/4343a.htm