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Religion is a human phenomenon; it is connected with various aspects of human life. It has resources to guide people in their temporal problems as well as in their spiritual quest. Its treasures and authority can be and have been misused as well. Religious views influence positions on political issues and public policies. Prayer in public schools, religious symbols in public places, abortion rights, racial discrimination, status of women, centrality of rituals, attitude to scientific knowledge, etc. involve moral questions rooted in religious conviction.

Religious diversity is a fact of our world; it expresses itself in different beliefs and forms of worship. What is meaningful to one religious community may be unacceptable to others. Further, ideas of superiority and attitude of arro­gance have crept into many religious traditions and have given rise to intoler­ance toward the peoples of other faiths and other denominations with in a faith. Authorities of some organized religions have raised walls of separation based on exclusivist views. They think that all other religions are wrong. Some traditions look on religious pluralism as a threat to their faith. In some parts of the world, groups of people are killing each other to rid themselves of diver­sity. They refer to it as ethnic cleansing. They have been responsible for much suffering and pain in the world.

Politics is a sub-system of human life and activity. It is an art of govern-ment; it is a partnership between those who govern and those who are governed. Political structures are means, not ends. We have seen political systems ranging from monarchy to oligarchy to repre-sentative democracy. The concepts of liberty, equality and justice are the foun-dations of democratic political systems.

Presently, politics has taken an ugly turn in many countries; it has become a sphere of immorality, injustice and tyr­anny and all such evils. Vested interests have developed to such an extent that politics has become the most lucra­tive profession. No holds are barred in the naked game of seeking power and wealth. Even primary norms of morality are violated with a vengeance. In some countries religion and politics have been mixed together.

Organized religions have frequently been double-faced. On one hand, they have contributed greatly to peoples’ wel­fare by serving the poor and the sick and by promoting education and culture. On the other hand, they have support­ed political authorities in their aggres­sive power game. They have frequently aligned themselves with imperialism, colonialism, oppression, exploitation, apartheid, etc. People have waged wars and persecuted their fellow beings in the name of religion and destroyed monu­ments of culture. Sectarian religious conflicts have been bitter and violent; religion and politics have often worked together in this violent history.

Spirituality views life in totality. It makes human beings sensitive to the sufferings of fellow beings and to the problems of environment. It stresses values of truth, love and justice. It is not divisive. It provides the essential support to every religion. It affirms that the good of the individual is contained in the good of all. Spirituality is like the under­lying fresh body of water from which all religions, like water wells, draw their sustenance. The universal spiritual val­ues embedded in each religion provide a solid foundation for democracy.

Spirituality checks egotism and Self-centered living; it breaks down barriers among human beings. Unselfishness is the very breath of spiritual life. No man is a whole of himself; his neighbors are the rest of him. It is said that where two or more persons gather in the name of God, there is the presence of God. The best promoter of friendship, social justice, brotherhood, and peace is spiri-tuality. Spirituality has to play a signifi-cant part in the fruitful functioning of the body politic. Instead of dismissing politics as an unscrupulous power game and as the den of corruption, political activity should be purified; it should be brought back into the main stream of spiritual values and ethical principles. Any deviation from moral principles is unworthy of any religious tradition. An increased focus on spirituality would not diminish religious ties, but it deepens and purifies them. But politics has to be separated from religious sectarianism.

Mahatma Gandhi fought nonvio­lently against the British colonial rule for the freedom of the people of India. His concern was to work for the welfare of the poor, the weak, and the neglected. He was not a politician; he was a deeply religious man. However, his conception of religion was not sectarian. So was Martin Luther King Jr; he fought for and defended the human rights of all people, including the Afro-Americans. These deeply religious men focused their endeavors for the welfare of oppressed peoples and for fairness and justice for all. They show us the way for purifying politics with moral and spiritual ideals.

K. L. Seshagiri Rao

 


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