Gone are the days of power, conquest and governance of Kings and Emperors. Civilizations have experienced and developed through these different systems of politics and ruling. Nations, nationalism and forms of democracies have emerged and still predominate. Today, populations have the power to elect these new forms of governance but, in turn, owe obedience to the government elected.
Political parties with different convictions and visions have thus been created over the last centuries, out of many individual and collective interests. Even the layman now knows the dynamics and the disadvantages of present politics. To name but a few, self-interests, corruption and the desire of power have distorted the conviction to serve the population. Whatever the strategies of politics, of right or wrong motives, of old or young minds, it more divides than unites a population, resulting in unnecessary argumentation, conflicts and disputes. At some point, in today’s globalized context, politics in its actual form seems to be reaching out to its limitations. There is not much choice left and significant abstention rates at elections are an indication of a kind of saturation.
In this process of advancement of civilization and governance, often the contribution of religion is ignored. The Buddha, before the Christian era, appealed for the abolition of castes and preached universalism. In the East, many countries adopted different forms of Buddhism and Hinduism, shaping the arts, cultures and politics. Many of the Oriental kings and emperors claimed, for example, that worshipping the Buddha and supporting the dharma (Buddhist teachings) would protect the states. Constantine, the Roman Emperor, adopted Christianity in the third century, legalized its practices and promoted its principles. To recall, Christianity itself as a religion, took its roots from the Jewish traditions and this paradigm shift influenced the cultural and political development of Europe. Much later, the Mohammedans’ contributions, derived from Islam, in the scientific and civilization constructs of Europe cannot be overlooked as well. John William Draper (1811-1882), a British philosopher and scientist, describes the Islamic influence over Europe in his scholarly book, ‘The Intellectual Development of Europe-Volume 2’. However, this is not to say that the political use of Buddhism, Christianity or other religions excluded conflicts and violence, knowing that it was a period of historical hegemony and conquer. The point is that in every stage of human history, religion has played a significant role in defining and reconstructing the state of public affairs and administration.
The European enlightenment undermined the authority of the Monarchy and the Church, putting forward the secularization theory that the state and religion are to be separated. Gradually adopted by nations, religions have been marginalized and made private. Materialism developed at the expense and sacrifice of religious values and teachings, resulting in the different ills of the present society. Religion and politics are polarized here. Is there a need for a de-privatization of religion? Is the ‘secular state’ the ideal and final form of governance, or was it but a theory put forward by European elitists? The role that religion continues to play in social and political conflict resolutions, is undeniable, on the other hand. Jacques Attali, the French economist and social theorist mentions in his book “Demain qui gouvernera le monde”, the new world order of the Bahá’í faith, as a promising model of administration in a globalised context, beyond utopia (Attali 2011, 135-136). According to their divine revelation, Bahá’ís do not participate in politics, but engage spiritually with the problems of society while showing complete obedience to the government. Their new world order presents a different conception of religion, without priesthood, and neither secular. Councils of nine persons, gender-equal, are elected annually by the whole community at both local and national levels.
Paradigm shifts in society organization and administration do not happen overnight, but, through an organic process of transformation, at the heart of which is the individual. Beyond the forms of salvation preached by the different religions, religion imbues periodically new concepts into civilizations. Religious values cannot be dissociated from our daily discourses and actions. In the hope for a ‘better future’, individuals engage themselves and sacrifice their intelligence, time, and energy in politics. Is it by conviction or for a career? For the same ‘better future’ other capable individuals are equally engaging themselves selflessly into spiritual and social transformations, addressing the root causes of the ills of our contemporary society. Whatever be the path chosen to contribute to civilization advancement in the present conditions, evidence given here show that religion remains a light of guidance.