RELIGION- of State or of Individual

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This article was written by Ankita Soni, a student of City Academy Law College, Lucknow.

Religion and State are the two notable institutions that have established a remarkable position throughout the globe over a significant period of time. The term ‘institution’ is used here because they are to be understood in respect of their organization for a purpose[i] and effect on society generally. Historically, religion was the first institution known to have organized the life of humans; to have had a proper religion and order in society was the definition of civilized. However, this position changed when the brand new institution of state came up which gave meaning to the new definition of organization and civilization. The State to a great extent removed religion from its sole governance, rather forcefully. Contemporarily, modern form of State is gaining popularity and religion is going out of scene, with the advent of scientific temper in majority. But religion has not lost its grasp on human civilizations yet; it still controls a significant portion world’s population. As its importance is fading there are many volunteers for its continuation, some taking the form of the extreme forms of religious fundamentalism. Furthermore, there are those attempts to merge both religion and state, which is generally known as State Religion or official religion of a State. But it is argued that this form of a combination is not beneficial for individuals generally. Religion is that kind of an institution that it should be limited to the personal life of individuals only and not in the formal form of State. But the present day situation is that religion is not even given the deserving place in the personal life of individuals as it is meant to be; it is carried on for the sake of carrying on only.


Though, there are many definitions of State, the modern definition of State is the most accepted and applicable, according to which, State is the political organization of society, or the body politic, or, more narrowly, the institutions of government. The State is a form of human association created for the purpose of the establishment of order and security by formulating the laws and effecting their enforcement. The state consists, most broadly, of the agreement of the individuals on the means whereby disputes are settled in the form of laws.[ii] Its cardinal elements are, its territory, the area of jurisdiction or geographic boundaries; its population, the persons residing on its territory or linked to it otherwise; its government; and finally its sovereignty. The keystone of a State in the modern world is its  Sovereignty, meaning the absence of interference of external powers and internal supremacy. This is the most basic characteristic of State which is respected by all the members of the international community, i.e. States. Though, it is an absolute entity it consists in some form of human agency. By  virtue of Sovereignty, this human agency is allowed wide authority and discretion.


Religion is a body of beliefs about some kind of, usually ‘other worldly’, transcendent reality; religions may be monotheistic, pantheistic, or non- theistic.[iii] Religion is an institution which attempts to establish an equilibrium between the individual self and the collective self. Every individual has two aspects in his life; first, the individual self- the identity which she holds of herself, her rights and duties to herself; and second, the self as a member of a community- the identity which she derives from belonging to that community, her rights and duties to that community. Here, that community is the religion or state to which she belongs. For understanding the true meaning of religion in respect of a State it has to be observed from the evolutionary perspective of State and Religion. The Evolutionary theory or the Historical theory of State, that is the best and most accepted theory of origin of State, states that State is a product of historical evolution. In the process of evolution of State, religion was the first most effective and organized institution which has its substantial effects on human civilizations till date. Religion most effectively bound people together by identifying with both the individual and collective self of the individual; unifying both selves to a great extent. Religion provided the bond of unity in early society. It also affected all walks of life. The worship of a common ancestor and common goods created a sense of social solidarity. There was fear in the hearts of men as far as religion was concerned. Even today we see religious practices, affairs and faith in uniting people. In the early days a number of races are united by religion and unity was essential for the creation of state.[iv]


Generally, State is the body of popular representatives of the people, and as the modern state grew it took the position of the godfather of the population and the need for religion as a governing body was no more felt and religion was confined to the individual sphere only. It is significant to note that it is losing its significance even from the lives of the individuals. Nonetheless, this threat to established religion was comprehended by some and they instead of fighting the institution of State, cleverly made up a new combination to ensure the life of religion by creating State Religions. Therefore, the modern needs of a state were met and the old religion also dominated simultaneously, and a new being was born with unprecedented powers. At such places where the authority of Sate is derived from some special authority or the absence of popular sovereignty are the places where Sate Religion exists de facto. This trend is celebrated in places where the governing body derives its power from an other-worldly superior unquestionable authority on the basis of some religion. With religion and modern law methods mixed State religion has become the new definition of arbitrariness because now the state cannot be questioned for its sovereignty and the religion cannot be questioned for its antiquity. Hence, this institution of State religion has attracted a great amount of criticism from the the modern world. At every place where this amalgamation of State and religion exists, arbitrariness rules at extent, even the basic rules of natural justice are unknown to these places; State is seen as an individual who can arbitrarily set any laws for its constituent parts without being accountable to anyone except God, an entity which rather never asks for any accounts.

In the name of Religion and State the governing authority can involve in any act; they are authorized to take any decision for which they will always be liable to the supreme unknown and unmet authority. In general parlance it is observed that the States who have such plenary powers misuse such power as the maxim goes, “Absolute powers corrupts absolutely”, so happens with the States with such plenary powers. There is no respect for the very basic human rights which even Hobbes had allowed to an individual; in the name of religion an individual is just considered a small nut in the very large machine of State and religion, because there is no separation of the individual self and the collective self. This becomes very antithesis of the popular sovereignty and general will. No principles of natural justice exists in such place, if there is something that is the supreme text or saying of the common ancestor or any authority which become the supreme law of the State, leaving no room for reason. It is known that whenever such wide powers are conferred these so called states are overthrown by people. Though, religion can extend the authority of such state for a significant period of time because it creates its fear in the personal lives of people, but eventually people take what is theirs.

RELIGION- For Individual

As is manifest that religion is not for a state to have because even if it is not used for power directly, it is used in most popular sovereignties indirectly, for political purposes; hence, it is best with an individual. If the following line of thought is followed that, every individual needs some form of faith in life to function normally and religion provides that, then it becomes clear that religion is necessary for an individual, if it is there without State interference. An individual is not just fulfilled by food and water, one of the major things which moves an individual is the sense of belonging and identity, which is lacking in the present time. It is of the utmost importance that there is faith in any form in every individual’s life. These complexes between religion and state have given a new definition to how an individual views religion. As is evident whatever is left of religion is always shown in the forms of tyranny and absolute injustice that who have a choice between religion and no religion go with no religion. Religion for an individual is faith and without religion there is no faith and the absence of faith from life makes it colorless and mechanic. Religion gives an individual the sense of belonging, the spirituality, the energy necessary to have a full life. However, the application of religion in the extreme has blemished its advantageous image for an individual.


Religion is apparently not compatible with state, as it gives the state the powers which are supposed to be there with the individuals, suppressing those for whom religion was made. It has to be accepted that religion is necessary for individuals, for a complete life, but the freedom to choose between these ideologies should be provided to the individual, without imposing an ideology on someone. It is concluded that State should be divorced from religion, and religion should be left for the personal self of the individual. Thereby, giving the individual the choice to determine his faith and the intervention of the State must be to this extent only that when an individual’s faith crosses its limits to interfere in others life then the State should limit that individual as it happens in other cases. Therefore, the individual gets the benefit of religion and the State gets its proper power to govern.



[i] Oxford University Press, (Feb. 5, 2017, 08:33 p.m.),

[ii]State- Sovereign Political Entity, Encyclopædia Britannica, (Feb. 5, 2017, 08:45 p.m.),

[iii] Andrew Heywood, Political Ideologies An Introduction 282 (Palgrave Macmillan, 5th ed. 2012).

[iv] The Origin Of The State: The Historical Or Evolutionary Theory, Read Or Refer, (Feb. 5, 2017, 09:11 p.m.),—The-Historical-or-Evolutionary-theory_1723/.


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