06 June 2012

Arab Spring - Politics and Religion

I'm not sure how one would do algebra without first learning arithmetic. Nor is it clear to me how a community makes political reforms without first making religious reforms.

Heard this morning a report on Tunisia's problems with alcohol. The good news is that the tyrant is gone. The bad news is that a majority of the population believes that religion is a public - not private - affair and so is working to purge the country of alcohol, closing bars and liquor stores.

Until a majority of Tunisians believe that beliefs are private and should be respected, they'll have serious problems with democracy. For democracies to work, it is not enough to have majorities determine outcomes. In order to not have a tyranny of the majority, democratic outcomes need to rest on a foundation of rights and the chief right is for a person to have a different belief about what can't be disproved.

Until a community embraces some version of Locke's ideas on the separation of church and state, its democracy will simply be a different kind of tyranny.

“I esteem it above all things necessary to distinguish exactly the business of civil government from that of religion and to settle the just bounds that lie between the one and the other. If this not be done, there can be no end put to the controversies that will be always arising between those that have, or at least pretend to have, on the one side, a concernment for the interest of men’s souls and, on the other side, a care for the commonwealth.”
-  John Locke

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