Conclusion

Having already said that ‘secular’ clause in Indian constitution does not seem to have done any good for religious tolerance in that country, I still like to contrast and draw attention to the governance model of our neighboring nation; the preamble to the Constitution of India proclaimed India a "sovereign socialist secular democratic republic". The word secular was inserted into the Preamble by the Forty-second Amendment Act of 1976. It mandates equal treatment and tolerance of all religions. India does not have an official state religion; it enshrines the right to practice, preach, and propagate any religion. No religious instruction is imparted in government-supported schools. In S. R. Bommai vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court of India held that secularism was an integral tenet of the Constitution.

 

All those examples from Sri Lanka and India are from a multicultural and multi-religious setting. So does that mean it is fine to adopt religion in to governance in a single culture setting? Well, I don’t think in a globalized environment there is a place where we can claim to have a single culture. Even with same religious and cultural background, each individual will have different tastes and personal values. A single minded governance model will inadvertently suppress personal freedoms and personal expression. Such governance, although will seem to succeed in the short-run, will crumble due to various forces both internal and external, acting on it. Also the close minded nature of such governance will hinder the progress of the community as ‘change’ will not be a virtue encouraged by religion. Failure of such religious states throughout the world history and failure of former Soviet Union that followed “communist religion” is a testimony of that. In another example; I am sure that members of Taliban movement in Afghanistan, when they rose to power might have felt the same way that some of the Buddhist leaders in Sri Lanka feel today. They must have thought that they are doing a good thing for their country by establishing good governance, guided by a religion that is close to their hearts. Within less than 6 years, they were thrown out of power making Afghanistan one of the messiest places on earth. Yes, lot of external factors outside of Afghanistan played a hand in that mess. However, that is exactly the point! No country is isolated and self-contained to do whatever they please. We need to be smart and understand how the world works, or accept dire consequences.

 

If it is not obvious from what I wrote, I do have a Buddhist background and a Buddhist upbringing. Whatever personal beliefs that I may or may not have should not matter in the topic of separation of governance and religion. In my opinion, ones own religion should only be discussed among likeminded. It should not be public affair. In Sri Lanka, and all over the world, there are billions of people who believe in astrology. It is a nice example for a personal belief system that survived without any official patronage from any government. We do not see many people openly discussing their beliefs in astrology. We certainly do not see any group demanding state patronage. We do not have ‘astrology’ as a mandatory or optional subject in primary or secondary education. In fact, even suggesting that would be met with ridicule by even those who believe in astrology. There are healthy debates between believers and non-believes but (hopefully) no one ever got killed due to those differences in opinion. However we all know that belief in astrology will be passed down many more generations to come, and there will be believers and practitioners despite astrology often being an easy target for ridicule. If astrology can survive and thrive despite being low profile in public discourse, and despite lack of state patronage; so can the religion.

Comments