Religion, in one sense, refers to the aspect of human life in which we relate to the divine through a person’s beliefs or collective practice. This spiritual entity can be seen as existing within or outside human beings in the highest possible realm.
Religion primarily consists of spiritual exercises that allow one to go deeper or higher. There are numerous methods for carrying out these exercises — deity, gods, and goddesses-dependent or completely independent of god.
Sometimes we also refer to religion as faith. The answer to the question of whether governments should leave faith alone has to be a big yes. Not that the government’s intervention is always unjustified. For example, states should step in if cooperative rituals involve human sacrifice.
The point is that there needs to be a general assumption that governments should not interfere with religious beliefs.
Constitutions typically govern the interaction of religious and state authorities.
They may forge a link between the state and a specific religion by recognizing a religion or granting its laws or institutions a special place in the judicial framework.
Others declare the state’s secularism or neutrality towards religion.
Religion and state appear to share some characteristics while differing in others. The goal of realizing the greater good of the people is the most important commonality between religion and the state.
This stems from the need to organize human affairs in order to avoid chaos and to establish and facilitate a system that ensures a decent life, human dignity, progress, prosperity, and advancement in all aspects of life.
But what about the aspects that go beyond this higher goal? A careful examination of religious texts and intellectual theories reveals that the most significant differences in human creation revolve around authority and government. As a result, faith is more focused on establishing the ideology of a given system than on the approach or mechanism by which it is to be implemented.
However, it is common for faith communities to feel the need to be rule-bound as they grow in size; in order to become stable and self-sufficient, they institutionalize themselves.
However, institutionalization frequently involves the establishment of power and status hierarchies. Some people in this relationship have more power and status than others, making them more equal.
They formalize beliefs about spiritual practices into explicit doctrines. They demand doctrinal purity and impose stringent but fictitious rules that divide believers into the normal and the deviant.
They impose violent and exclusionary penalties on ‘deviants,’ resulting in gated communities with strong perceptions of who is inside and who is outside. Heresy and infidelity become concepts, and a whole society becomes infested with persecution.
In this second sense, religion refers to institutionalized religious communities, such as those led by a church, math, madarsa or sangha. Spiritual exercises are no longer possible unless one is a member of a strongly institutionalized religion.
Should the state support discrimination, exclusion, marginalization, humiliation, oppression, or harassment by elite-controlled religious institutions, or should it instead ensure that members of the faith community live free and dignified lives?
A government must intervene in organized religion with caution and sensitivity to prevent any form of dominance within it. It should also prevent any attempt by it to exert dominance over persons of other religious communities.
The term religion is used but refers to more than just faith or powerful institutions that control and regulate it. It refers to historically mediated traditions and even an entire way of life. As a result, many people believe that Hinduism is not a religion in the traditional sense but rather a way of life. But, if religion is a complete way of life, and this implies the break – down of the very difference between society or religion and culture, then all social relations of hierarchy and domination are also subsumed under religion.
Because religion is a complex and morally ambiguous phenomenon, there is no single, unequivocal yes or no response to the above question. Over the years, this should be maintained that a strict separation of state and religion is not desirable.
The state cannot claim that it will control every aspect of religion, nor will it have nothing to do with it. It will always keep religion at arm’s length no matter what happens. The state must maintain an honorable distance from all religions, as it should.
From a moral standpoint, there is no reason for a state to establish any law or government policy relating to matters of faith that are not tainted by control, hierarchy, or exclusion. A state should not interfere with our faith or how we practice it.
Faith in god, gods, goddesses, or godless human qualities like reason, must be free of interference. On the other hand, a just, egalitarian, and freedom-conscious state cannot abandon its obligation to eradicate the stains of intra- or inter-religious supremacy from its society.
In India, secularism is defined as a subtle and adaptable policy of value-based political or legal decisions on whether or not to intervene in religion rather than as a political perspective that allows the state to exercise authoritarian control over religion.
The Indian Constitution has allowed extensive state interference in religious affairs, such as based on the constitution’s abolition of casteism, opening up of all Hindu temples to people of ‘lower caste,’ and so on.
This effective synchronization validates the state’s interference in such matters where social evils must be eradicated, and social justice must prevail above all. In these cases, the state has to intervene.
This honorable distance and interference of secularism is the Indian Constitution’s unique ethical stance. It is a gift from India to the rest of the world that they can learn and enrich their country.
India, a country with no official religion, has undoubtedly left its mark on letting its countrymen follow their religion however they prefer. Though we cannot avoid the strong interference of the state on some religious matters, we must cherish the fact that India, with its diversity, has been emerging as one of the most diverse yet powerful countries in the world.