TRINPsite, 50.34.6 - 54.14.6            StateRel/IDSRTxt.htm

    by M. Vincent van Mechelen
    In progress

    At the moment this document comprises little more than a
collection of articles or selected passages from papers and
magazines about the contemporary and/or historical relationship
between state and 'denominational ideology' in countries all
over the world. It is not (yet) systematic in that each country
is considered in turn, after which as many relevant data as
possible are collected about it. Until now it has been rather
the other way around: the data the author has come across (more
or less by accident) have been filed under the country at issue.
This information is then later to be used for a systematic
   ~Denominational ideology~ is the universal and impartial term
for a set of ideas which lies at the root of a person's or group
of people`s worldview or life-stance. When it involves the
belief in supernatural beings such as gods or demons, it is
usually called "a religion"; when it does not involve belief in
the supernatural, in a god or devil, it is often called, by
theists and atheists alike, "a philosophy". However, such a use
of the word ~philosophy~ in the sense of a set of rules for
living one's life is misleading, because in that sense religion
is a 'philosophy' as well. More importantly, it is the function
of 'philosophy' in its proper sense to _study_ the nature and
meaning of reality as it is, can be and ought to be, whereas it
is the function, not of philosophy, but of ideology to make
people _keep_ reality as they (are supposed to) believe it is
and ought to be, or to make them _change_ reality in the
direction of what they (are supposed to) believe it can and
ought to be.
    Every religion is therefore first and foremost an ideology,
and so are the belief systems of people whose worldviews are not
religious, irreligious or, perhaps, anti-religious. It will not
offend against traditional usage to call a religion "a
_denominational_" rather than "political ideology", but a non-
religious ideology or 'philosophy of life' is no less
'denominational' when it concerns a special idea or doctrine
whose _name_ people will refer to when asked what they 'are' or
'call themselves'. (Calling yourself "an atheist" or "agnostic"
is as much a denominational act as calling yourself "a theist"
or a believer in one particular god.)
    Even scientists who claim that they are only interested in
reality from a purely empirical perspective confine themselves
to a part of the physical or social world on the basis of
evaluative, normative or plainly ideological (if not personal)
criterions. Therefore it needs no denying that any study of the
relationship between state and denominational ideology, which is
in itself a descriptive undertaking, has a normative source.
Here that source is the conviction that every citizen, as a
person among persons, has a right to equal consideration and
treatment by the state, also and especially in the field of
their worldview or life-stance, where it encompasses the right
to freedom of and from religion. It is the conviction that no
state is morally allowed to exhibit denominational partiality;
to exclusively promote supernaturalism over naturalism, theism
over atheism, religion over irreligion, or vice versa. It is the
conviction that the answer to the denominational question
whether belief must be `theocentric`, that is, based on the
primacy of one or more gods, or `normistic`, that is, based on
the primacy of norms and values, is not to be furnished, let
alone dictated, by political authorities.
  _~Thou Shalt Not Steal the State~_ is what succinctly
summarizes this view that where people of diverse persuasions
live together in one territory governed by one state, no group
of people must `steal` that state by ideologically arrogating it
to themselves, by abusing it as an instrument to foist their
private religious or other ideological symbols and/or practises
on all others inhabiting the same land. For every state whose
existence can be morally justified is morally owned by all
members of society equally, and by no denomination in
    If a state is made to exhibit denominational partiality
nevertheless, by means of its symbols, rules, teachings or in
any other way, then it manifests a particular form of
exclusivism: the form in which the factor of distinction is (in
practise) a certain religion or religion in general. It is this
manifestation of exclusivism which is to be called "religionism"
(by analogy with ~racism~ and ~sexism~). More specifically, it
is 'state religionism' when the state is the perpetrator, rather
than a single individual or a group of citizens. In religionist
countries it is the law, the government or the head of state
that draws an irrelevant distinction between the one
denominational ideology and the other, that draws an unjust
distinction between one religion and all other denominational
beliefs or between religion in general and nonreligious belief,
and that by doing so discriminates in favor of religious people
and against nonreligious people, or in favor of the adherents of
one particular religion and against its nonadherents, or the
other way around.
    State religionism may be either 'aggrandizemental', when the
state praises and furthers religion, or 'abnegational', when the
state denounces and opposes it. (The colloquial terms ~positive~
and ~negative~ are not used here, because the former word has a
'positive' connotation, while an aggrandizemental form of
exclusivism, or favoritism, is as bad as its abnegational
counterpart.) In most countries the kind of state religionism we
find nowadays is one in which the religious, theocentric
worldview is promoted to the detriment of the nonreligious,
normistic one. The number of countries with irreligion or a
particular anti-religious doctrine as their state ideology has
been reduced considerably in recent years. This is a great
improvement provided that and so long as the states concerned do
not adopt religious or theocentric symbols, ideas and
institutions as their own instead. For, whether abnegational or
aggrandizemental, state religionism remains equally immoral,
equally unjust, from the point of view of each citizen`s and
each group of citizens` personal rights, among which the right
to be considered equally and to be treated as equals, regardless
of their worldview or life-stance.
    The worst case of aggrandizemental state religionism is when
a country has an official _state religion_, and the worst case
of abnegational state religionism is when a country has
something as _atheism_ as its official (denominational)
ideology. These two extreme cases should certainly be listed in
any document on state religionism. But such a document should
not only burden the reader with what is bad or wrong in the
politico-denominational field, it should also inform the reader
about improvements in that field, perhaps even about (near-)
ideal conditions existing in a country that was, is or has
become more or less enlightened with respect to denominational
freedom and equality. The absence of a certain form of state
religionism may be as much a subject of a dossier on state
religionism as its presence. And, obviously, such a dossier is
to pay heed to the individuals and organizations that devote
themselves to achieving this absence, that is, to the cause of a
just, open and inclusive society in which the law, the head of
state, the government and the civil servants do not discriminate
anymore between citizens on the basis of theistic belief,
religion or whatever brand of denominationalism.
    So far, the manuscript that is giving the initial impetus to
the documentation of state religionism, thus preparing the way
for an International Dossier on State Religionism, covers the
following countries (with number of pages): Albania (2), Algeria
(2), Bangladesh (2), Canada (18), (former) Czechoslovakia (2),
Egypt (4), France (2), Germany (5), Great Britain (17), Greece
(2), India (3), Indonesia (3), Iran (3), Ireland and Northern
Ireland (10), Israel (5), Italy and Vatican City (4), Japan (2),
Malaysia (2), Mexico (5), Morocco (3), Netherlands (7), Norway
(5), Pakistan (2), Poland (4), Saudi Arabia (4), (former) Soviet
Union (8), Sweden (3), Turkey (3), United States (22) and Zambia
    Factual information on these countries can be made available
in electronic form if it does not exceed a total of, say, five
(5) pages. Should you be interested in a larger part of this
manuscript you will have to content yourself with paper copies.

  (C) MVVM  in@xs4all.nl  POB 11449, 1001 GK  Amsterdam, Neth.