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Religion, The State And Sovereignty

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The influence of religion on humankind can be traced back to the

first records of history. Religion has served as a pillar of strength

to some and binding chains to others. There are vast amounts of

information and anthropological studies revealing the interaction of

religion and humankind. However, for the purposes of this paper, the

time periods of study will be broken up into three sections. Each

section will give a general description of how religion affected the

institution of the state and its Sovereignty in a Euro-centric

perspective. The first period is the early period, which will encompass

from Christianity and the Roman Empire to the Medieval times (approx.

311 to 1100 A.D.). The second period will include the Renaissance, the

Reformation to the Treaty of Westphalia (1101 to 1648 A.D.). The third

and increment of history will range from 1649 to 1945 A.D.

The date 311 A.D. marks the issuing of the "Edict of Toleration"

for Christians. This date is important because it symbolizes "national"

acceptance of Christianity, and planted its roots as a political

institution. Later the Roman Empire on the verge of internal collapse

acknowledged the importance of Christianity and used it to hold

together the remnants of it former self. This adoption of Christianity

took form and eventually became the Catholic church.

The church became intermingled with politics and became a strong

entity. The policies delivered from the church had more authority than

the local rulers and magistrates of the developing feudal system. For

example, St. Augustine wrote about war and what justified its enactment

against fellow men. This policy was followed and adhered to for

hundreds of years after St. Augustine wrote it.

Another example, is the use of the Bible as a guideline for

establishing governing systems. Scripture portrayed God as choosing the

king of the people. The pope, being God's "representative" was then

given the authority to crown the king. This crowning process gave the

pope large influence in the political arena. This ritual continued for

a number of centuries.

The Crusades, which occurred around 1100 A.D., played a crucial

role in challenging the church's authority. The pope identifying the

spread of Islam as evil requested all of Europe embark on a "Crusade" to

defeat the infidels. As the battles were fought, great treasures were

found in the form of books and knowledge. These books were crude

translations of old Greek texts, containing information which would

eventually produce the waning of Church authority in the future.

The Renaissance marked the beginning of intellectual re-birth.

Writers such as Dante, Machiavelli, Guiarccidini, Vitoria, etc., all

attempting to reform and some even contest church dominance. Dante in

his imaginative work "Inferno" writes of hell which he envision is the

pope's final destination. Machiavelli takes a more direct role

classifying the actions of a prince to be above morality and ultimately

above the Church. He continues the affront by classifying a human

character of "virtu" as being completely centered around man (humanism).

The Raison D' Tat is supreme especially in terms of the church


In the middle of the Renaissance, the Church was dealt a deadly

blow from which it would never recover. This assault came via Martin

Luther. His work, "95 Thesis", marked the beginning of the Reformation.

This movement split the church into Catholic and Protestant sects. It

marked the beginning of a bloody period which virtually split Europe in

half. Examples of the conflict raged between Protestants and Catholics

from the great slaughter of Protestants in Paris 1572 A.D. (7000 dead)

to the Thirty Years War. With the Church in disarray, freedom was given

to the "state" to begin to develop.

During this period of Renaissance the political identity was

going through a tremendous transformation. This transformation took

form in what is called Absolutism. "Princes" began to tolerate less and

less manipulation from the church. The political entity in the form of

monarchy began to wean itself from the Church for its legitimacy and

looked toward its own power.

Other writers began to rise and discuss issues of sovereignty

and the state. Thomas Hobbes discusses the state and refers



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