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Should the state define religion?

Dianne Wood

9:30 AM on June 15, 2010
It would be helpful if we had a definition of religion. Prof. Young says there should be a supernatural dimension, it should help people to live with such paradoxes as life and death, good and evil, and order and disorder; have a source of authority from scripture or ancestral teaching or a magisterial structure like the Catholic Church; a system of symbols; sacred times, such as holy days, and sacred places, such as temples or pilgrimage routes; rituals; an ethical system and taboos; offer a comprehensive way of life; sustain a group, not just individuals; and have an identity that is passed from one generation to the next.
I think a religion should also be universal, meaning it is open to everyone. Also I think a religion should allow freedom, where a person is not and cannot be forced to belong.

Fr. Tim

9:50 AM on June 15, 2010
It can also be dangerous for the courts/state to define a religion. The very act of establishing the boundaries by the court MAY imply a preeminence of powers, with the state & courts reigning over the Church. This has caused complications in England (to name one Christian country) and Iran (the easiest of many example to use); complications that have resulted in the spilling a great deal of blood.

There must be a balance or, to steal a line from John Ralston Saul, an "Equilibrium" (at least he got the concept correct even if his definitions skew his conclusions) that needs to be maintained between the various institutional embodiments of our values (religious-church, political-government, justice-police & courts etc.), it usually is a bad result when one institution interferes with another.

It will be interesting to see the result.

Fr. Tim


  1. No. The state has no business defining religion any more than religion has defining a state.


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