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Religion and Politics - a Major Debate

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There is a major debate when it comes to Religion and Politics. This debate has carried on through the ages. Should they coexist or should they each stand individually in society. In this essay I will define the relationship between Religion and Politics and describe the role that reason plays in that relationship, as described through the writings of two great thinkers; the Islamic philosopher Averroes, and the Christian thinker Thomas Aquinas. When defining religion people think of traditions and rituals impressed upon them by their parents and generational old concepts. Traditions and ideas that are never questioned, beliefs that are followed blindly to no ends. If these traditions were to be questioned the response would most likely be faith. Every question could be answered with one simple word faith. The idea of Politics is a bit different, politics isn't something that an individual is taught or learned, it's experienced. People tend to lean towards the form of government that best suits them or benefits their life style. If an individual lived a life of poverty, that individual may lean more towards a society of equality and shared wealth where class lines are more consolidated. In contrast an individual who has a more lavish life style may lean towards an aristocratic society, or a capitalist society where selfish individual motives can guide some one to incredible riches. The point is that your political sense or opinion would lean more towards what you have experienced as opposed to what you have been taught.

Averroes thoughts on Religion were similar to those of Al Farabi and Plato where the philosophers are the elite. Averroes believes that the nature of man come in three different levels in respects to there assent. The first being demonstrative, the second being dialectical arguments, and the third being rhetorical. Because of these three methods everyone can achieve assent unless those who stubbornly oppose it. Averroes believed that everyone had the ability to understand and explains that in the saying of God the Exalted "Summon to the way of your Lord by wisdom and by good preaching, and debate them in the most effective manner". (pg. 169, Medieval Political Philosophy) He also goes on to explain how demonstrative study cannot lead to conflicting terms with Law, for truth does not oppose truth it accords with it and bears witness to it. This was important when it came to Religion because if you were a being of demonstrative assent and found a contradiction or confliction in the law you were open to interpret it. He believed this to be exceptional to any of the other forms of assent because demonstrative thought was based off certainty and the rest were based off of opinion. This thought of interpretation would play a major role in his concept of Religion. Those people who didn't posses the demonstrative form of thinking, those people who were everyday common workers and men needed religion and traditions to explain things to them. But those thinkers who possessed demonstrative thinking were able to use the old books and look at religion and interpret meaning and truth from it. Religion was for the masses, and interpretation of religion were left for what he thought were the elite people, or elite thinkers; philosophers. He refers to this idea with words from the Exalted "He it is who has sent down to you the book, containing certain verses clear and definite down to the words, those who are well grounded in science."(pg.170, Medieval Political Philosophy) Reinforcing his point that some things are unanimously agreed upon to take into apparent meaning, others are objected and open to interpretation. Averroes also brings to light that first believers used to hold that the Law has both an apparent and an inner meaning, and that inner meaning should not be learned by man who is not a man of learning in that field and who is incapable of understanding it. The point Averroes was trying to make was that there can never be certainty when it comes to theoretical questions. Religion being of that nature an answer providing pure certainty could never be given. Therefore interpretation and more important reason would have to help dictate your conclusion.

Averroes ideas on Politics were of a parallel path to that of religion. There were three types of assent. Demonstrative, dialectical, and rhetorical. The magnitude belonging to the dialectical and rhetorical, and the elect belonging to the demonstrative. There were four type of classes of common methods of law. The first was when a law was certain in concepts and in judgment although it was dialectical and rhetorical. The second occurs where the premises are certain and their conclusions are similitudes for the things it was intended to conclude. The third is where the conclusions are similitudes and the premises are thought to be certain. The fourth occurs when the premise is thought to be certain and the conclusions are similitudes to that conclusion. This is where the interpreter comes in, the elect thinker of demonstration and interprets the law into its apparent meaning. He explains that the relationship between the people and the aim of the Legislator analogous to the parable of a man that goes to a skillful doctor. The doctor is supposed to preserve the health and cure the diseases of the people. He is unable to make them all doctors. If the man that is seeing the doctor goes out and attempts to discredit him then the people he convinces will perish. If the doctor attempts to explain to the people about health through interpretations he will be doing them a disservice and if he gives them false interpretations then they will also perish because they will believe there is no reason to preserve health. It is all made up interpretations. He says it is the same when you express interpretations about law to the multitude to those who are not in the realm of the law. If he does then he makes the law false and therefore turning the people away from the law, and in doing so making himself a nonbeliever. When many popular interpretations of law are published that's when disbeliefs occurs amongst the people. Those people who aren't able to have demonstrative intellect begin to interpret their own meanings of the law and convincing others of the same intellect that they are correct begin to lead the world into chaos by dividing the people. The only thing left would be war to settle one's interpretation but no longer would this be done by reason but by force.

"Thomas Aquinas was the first to recognize the fact that Aristotelian intellectualism would be of great help for the study of philosophy as well as theology. But the introduction of Aristotle's works involved the solution of the disputed question of the relationship between philosophy and theology.

This confusion between

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