Which nations have state religions?

One thesis in regards to the vitality of religions is that state sponsorship tends to result in disaffection because public monopolies offer sub-standard product. In contrast, separation between the public sector and religion results in a free market of ideas which promotes vigorous diversity and competition which satisfies the tastes of all (or nearly all).

Below is a map from Wikipedia which shows "state religions" by geography. I don't think I accept the predictive power of the thesis above....


How you define "state religion" can be a little sketchy, but usually it has to be privileges and recognition in the constitution or laws of a nation. By contrast, the Netherlands has no state religion but does subsidize religious schools, while Germany has a voluntary church tax which smooths the revenue stream for Protestants and Catholics. But in neither of these cases do the entanglements reach the level of state establishment of a particular religion.

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"How you define "state religion" can be a little sketchy": you can say that again. The idea that the Roman Catholic church hasn't been the state religion of the Irish Republic is, I'd say, rather inconsistent with the recent report on pederast priests and the extraorinary privileges given to that church by the police, judiciary and politicians.

The fact that the Church of Scotland would rather be referred to as the National Church rather than the Established Church doesn't, perhaps, justify its exclusion from the map.

And the fact that Roman Catholic are state-funded throughout the UK - should that somehow modify the representation on the map?

If the idea of a "state religion" turns out to be pretty confusing for such a small patch as the British Isles, how useful is it for the whole world?

By bioIgnoramus (not verified) on 04 Dec 2009 #permalink

Malaysia stands out as an exception among the green nations (it is one of the "newly-industrialized countries" and is fairly wealthy).

It is also dramatically secular compared to, say, Saudi Arabia, though.

I talked to a German once who said that churches there aren't like churches here, but more like community centers fulfilling various social needs. Actually that kind of church exists in the US too, but from what she said, over there it was typical, with only a rather small minority devoutly worshipping (and often in schismatic groups of their own).

By John Emerson (not verified) on 05 Dec 2009 #permalink

The manner in which the Church of England (Anglican church) is the state religion of England in no way resembles the manner in which Islam is a state religion in the middle east and North Africa. In England it is just a formality, a tradition, sort of like the monarchy. It doesn't give the Church of England more power than, say, the Methodist Church in England or any other religious body in England.

But the map is interesting. The Islamic countries are not doing so well. Why, for example, is Pakistan such a basket case compared to India?

It is always interesting to look at neighbouring countries, and try to figure out why one is more successful than the other.
For example:
North Korea - South Korea
Haiti - Dominican Republic
USA - Mexico

Australia and New Zealand also have established religions

well, it seems more complicated than that. the queen is head of state, and bishops have been governor general, but your constitution does say:
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

Melykin, sure. i tried not to be too editorial. but the nations which are analogous to muslim nations re: religion and state are probably greece or bhutan. these aren't saudi arabia, but the primacy of orthodoxy and buddhism really marginalizes other religions.

Should state atheism be considered a state religion if it involves mandatory enforcement? A government employee in England doesn't have to be an Anglican, but one does have to be a de-facto atheist for many(most?) positions in China.

John, if Anglicanism is the state religion of Australia, how come both the current Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are self-avowed devout Catholics, and how come when the Mad Monk was Health Minister he got away with regulatory control of RU 486 based on his religious beliefs until a parliamentary vote deprived him of that power?

And if (heaven forbid) he ever became Prime Minister, how long do you think it would be before he was flat out injecting his personal religious beliefs into political issues again? Given his characterisation of abortions as a "national tradedy" approaching the scale of the lower life expectancy of indigenous people, I think we can assume it would not be very long.

By Sandgroper (not verified) on 05 Dec 2009 #permalink

jing, you bring up an interesting point. it is in communist & quasi-communist states as well as muslim states that xtians complain the most about persecution.

sand, kevin rudd is an anglican. he was raised catholic but converted in the 1980s.

Zeeb, he didn't convert in any formal sense, he just started attending an Anglican church with his wife. But I agree it's a bit of a pedantic point. I'm not trying to beat up Catholics - my real concern is the separation of state and religion, and the reality that politicians inject their religious beliefs into secular issues. Rudd has been faily good at not doing that so far, I think (he's got Gillard as a brake on him), whereas Abbott is dangerous in the extent to which he does it.

As you have noted, the Australian Constitution provides specifically for the separation of church and state. If I take John Wilkins point, then I'd have to say that Indonesia should be colored Muslim, Brazil colored Catholic, most of the Philippines colored Catholic, and a lot more besides.

By Sandgroper (not verified) on 05 Dec 2009 #permalink

It would be interesting to see how the presence or absence of a state religion correlates with the Per Capita GDP numbers from the CIA World Factbook.

Sandgroper - existence of a state religion does not require that public office holders profess that religion. The counterexamples are legion - from David Lloyd George to Tariq Aziz.

Correction: I meant "And the fact that Roman Catholic SCHOOLS are state-funded throughout the UK.."

csrster, right, but Australia has no state religion. There was a time when you could argue, reasonably, that the de facto 'establishment' in Australia was Anglican, or at least Anglican/Protestant (although the first Australian to be appointed as Governor General was Jewish), but check this out: http://www.smh.com.au/national/catholic-politicians-blessed-with-rise-t…

And this, which clearly demonstrates that at independence in 1901, Australia was a Protestant country with a Catholic minority, but that the Anglicans and Protestants have suffered a major long term decline, while the Catholics have more than held their own, helped by continuing migrant top-up, and have now gained an ascendancy in conservative politics which they never had before: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AustralianReligiousAffiliationGr…

And the Anglicans have just shot themselves comprehensively in the foot by admitting openly gay and female priests, thereby alienating the die-hard conservatives in the Anglican congregation, some of whom will now convert to Catholicism, so I predict the next census will show a further major decline in people self-identifying as Anglican.

So even if John Wilkins is right, I don't think it will remain that way for much longer. It would be too much of a stretch to say that Australia is on its way to becoming a Catholic country, but Catholicism is undoubtedly making its presence felt in national and state politics, in a way that Anglicanism is not.

You could almost argue that, in trying to be moderate and liberal, the Anglicans have orchestrated their own demise.

By Sandgroper (not verified) on 06 Dec 2009 #permalink