Historically has the authority of government come from religion

From what I know about history it seems to be that government and religion are basically tied together across cultures. I could be wrong but that is the impression I get. Historically religious authority and political authority were tied together with the powerful politicians being religious leaders or appointed by religious leaders or appointed by whatever god(s) that culture believed in.

Is this the normal form of government for humans, for religion and politics to be tied together? If so, why? Is it because in order to be controlled we need to feel we are being watched 24/7 and a government can’t do that? Do we need religious authority and w/o it governmental authority is not enough to keep us in line?

It seems to me like we have 3 forms of authority. Social, governmental and religious. Social includes things like shame, governmental includes the law and religious includes god (naturally). Do we need all 3 to keep us in line or something? Is that why religion and politics have been tied? Are there examples of historical governments that didn’t declare that their political power came from their gods and that their gov. had nothing to do with god?

Historically the authority of government comes from having more coercive power than any rivals.

AFAIK, Norse rulers didn’t base their right to govern on any kind of divine blessing. In the sagas you’ll find some instances of “my god can beat up your god” stuff, especially during the introduction of Christianity, but the right to rule is based on secular power, and preferably some more-or-less-nebulous claim that you’re descendant of a previous ruler. (King Sverre’s “I’m son of the previous king, and I can prove it: He visited the farm where my mother lived nine months before I was born” comes to mind as one of the more flimsy ones :slight_smile: )

Well, if I were a ruler I’d probably want to go on ruling, and to do that, it would be useful to grab as wide a powerbase as possible. If my sheep - um, esteemed subjects were used to obey religous autorities, I’d try to get those autorities on my side, pay/bribe/threaten them to declare that my rule was blessed by the Divine IPU, and that to rebel against their beloved ruler was a grave sin.

OTOH, there have been plenty of instances where religious and secular authorities have fought with each other, as well. (The aforementioned king Sverre was excomunicated by the pope, and had to make a barefoot pilgrimage to beg for forgiveness.)

Political power and religion are both essential parts of the social order, and as such they normally had to go hand in hand to insure the stability of the society.

I think historically it’s come from the power to make war. Religion helps gives rulers legitimacy. For example, there’s the Divine Right of Kings. There are definitely some exceptions, and I don’t think the authority of a government comes derives from god in any secular Democracy.

That was Henry IV.

Um, yeah, that’s right :o
King Sverre (1151-1202) was excommunicated by the pope on request of archbishop Eirik. When he died, he was still excommunicated.

(That should teach me not to quote historical details from memory. :slight_smile: )

Modern societies including Western Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea have demonstrated adequately that they can function without a strong presence of religious authority.

Religion is a means for providing comforting explanations where other, non-religious explanations are not available. At the dawn of humanity, people in all societies understood very little of the world around them, so it’s not surprising that they all lofted religion to very high status, even giving it political power. As the natural sciences and the social sciences have shown us how the world works in truth, the need to provide fictional supernatural explanation has diminished and inevitably, this leads to political power being slowly stripped away from the religious institutions and placed in institutions derving their power from the sciences.

There might be some isolated examples to the contrary, but claiming some sort of divine approval or connection as a way of providing legitimacy for those in power has been extremely common, if not universal. In fact, I think the constitution of the United States may be the first example of a government formally disavowing any sort of religious underpinning (and that, of course, has not met with universal approval since).

There’s still a lot of symbolic religious endorsements of political authority. England’s monarchs are crowned by the Archbishop, for instance. Even presidential inaugurations are attended (unconstitutuionally, IMO) by clergy and the president swears his oath on a Bible. It’s mostly a token thing now but political authority still likes to give the impression that they are approved by God.

I think that the influence of religion, is simply the influence of culture/society in general on our legal systems and governement in Western Governments. Fact is that western society has been heavily influenced by a judeo-christian culture. I don’t think that governments were trying to make religion part of government per se as much as when these things were created, religion did heavily influence culture. Religion was just such a part of society and culture no one gave it a second thought. Thus things like the pledge of allegience (to the flag), constitution, and the dollar bill containing religious references in the US.

I suppose this is a chicken or the egg issue, as in my opinion the 2 were simply intertwined, and religion was not thought of as being added deliberately as a 3rd element to form additional significance to law, but rather just part of the culture.