The early education of humans has almost constantly included their moral, spiritual and religious education since the earliest organized social thought. Even when the task was as basic as leadership of a small group, the leader was influenced by the spiritual and religious thought of those who were the wisest or most powerful in the group. Conversely, the group or society may have made inclusion of religious thought a requirement for gaining or remaining in power.
The political thought of the “great thinkers” of any time incorporated their understandings of the unknown and unseen as well as their beliefs about superior beings and deities. This may have been an internal process, as the great thinkers’ religious training and education extended to their secular thought. Or, it may have been an external process as the society imposed a requirement to view all matters of life and society within an umbrella of the accepted religious thinking of the times.
It is only a matter of consequence that religions and religious organizations influence the leadership of nations or states and therefore have an effect on the state and its political business. The building of temples and churches, engagement in enterprises that help to raise funds, establishment of societies within the society and even the holding of major shares and monopolies over certain business and economic functions are all within the activities of religious organizations that are also corporate interests.
Eventually, the religious foundations become secular tools for increasing power and influence over society, government and law, rather than matters of belief or faith.
Religious organizations are notorious for influencing the law in ways that allow them to exert political and legal power over society. The Catholic church eventually became so involved in secular and political matters that the time was ripe for reformation. The reformed churches immediately began to bolster their political influence and power, with both churches becoming the cause of wars, social upheaval and death for many. The political thinking of the Catholic and reformed European religions, based in twisted religious thoughts, were heavy influences on the political justifications for hegemony, colonization and oppression of most of the world’s non white peoples.
Islamic politicians distract the world with aggressive anti-Western and anti-semitic posturing and threat, using religion as needed to justify socio-political ambitions that are increasingly popular among the powers of the Islamic world. In reality, it might be that the masses would prefer more rationality and less embattlement.
But the melding of religious thought and secular politics, combined with the coercive power of governments, appears to be ancient and permanent, no matter how much posturing about separation of church and state.
In America, there are constant influences on lawmakers and the public by well financed, powerful, sometimes secretive and seriously competing religious interests. The increasing intrusion of religious thought into secular and political matters has challenged the social movements of the past 50 years, including women’s right to choose abortions, racial and ethnic civil rights and gay and lesbian civil rights.
The interstate and international reach of individual religious organizations is having an effect on politics. California’s reversal of Gay Marriage law was heavily funded and influenced by shadowy Mormon church interests who were headquartered in Utah. A secretive American religious group, dubbed the “C” street group in Washington DC, was associated with US lawmakers who encouraged an African nation to make homosexuality a death penalty offense. Some Islamic fundamentalists want Sharia law to supersede the secular law of their hosting nations. Religious offshoots and cults establish isolated compounds and communities and resist any government intrusion.
In addition, organized religions collect massive amounts of money and run major non profit businesses. As the money aggregates, so does economic power. Economic power is political power. The Vatican Bank alone is a major player in the world economy, and the world economy is a major player in world politics. It is unknown just how much influence the major religions have on those who have influence in the world trade treaty negotiations. World trade is a major player in the politics of nations.
In summary from outright control of the secular leadership, to secretive influence over the most powerful and influential corporate, economic, governmental, political, social and trade entities in the world, religion is playing an increasing role in politics and in the political thinking of political strategists. Increasing polarization of governments and peoples, with rising destabilization of societies is a major consequence of religion mixing in with political ambition.