Handout – Religion
What is the relationship between religion and the state?
How does religion interact with other forces to shape world politics?
Since the time of the Roman Empire and the death of the Prophet Muhammed, Christianity and
Islam have been intertwined with the territorial expansion of Empire, often coming into conflict in
Southern & Eastern Europe. Islam’s Western expansion is stopped in Spain but continues eastward
into Asia and Africa. Christian rule is returned to Spain in 1492 & is followed by the Spanish
Inquisition (designed to test the faith of Jewish & Muslim converts to Christianity)
1095: Pope Urban II calls Europe to the Crusades – violent fundamentalist movement in which
Christian (Catholic) gentry & mercenaries are promised glory in heaven if they spread the Catholic
faith through the Muslim world
1648: Treaty of Westphalia erodes religious influence on political life in Europe. Recognizes rights
of monarchs in their own lands (sovereignty) and their ability to dictate the state religion. Rise of
secularism. Natural (God-given) law gives way to positive (codified) law.
Religion becomes more of a transnational force as the state becomes the most important actor in
1) British influence in the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel, and how this shapes current
conflicts in Palestine
Balfour Declaration 1917: a promise from the British (colonial government in Palestine)
that it supported the idea of a “national home” in Palestine. This is read by the Zionists as support
for a state, and they immigrate in large numbers.
2) Iran and the Islamic Revolution
Shah Reza Pahlavi: gains power in 1953