3 Tutorials that teach National Religions
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National Religions

National Religions

Author: Ted Fairchild

This lesson will explain national religions

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Video Transcription

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Hello, welcome. In this tutorial, we're going to be looking at how religion and civil affairs are related and connected and dependent upon each other, or not related and dependent upon each other in many cases. You may have already learned about theocracies, governments which rule by religious authority in which God is considered to be the civil ruler, and/or in which the rulers are considered to be divinely guided. Theocracy as a form of governing is not entirely uncommon. And, in fact, has been a large part of many institutional and religious traditions for quite a long time.

The idea of a national religion, on the other hand, has to do with government sanctioned institutions of religious practice. At times revealing a union of church and state and at times a separation with clear dominions for each. It might be most useful, first of all, to think of religions and nations and states in terms of the history of the Roman Catholic Church, as it was the first hugely influential church body that was so intimately linked with civil and state affairs. The first officially legalized religion in the fourth century was Roman Catholicism. In this sense, Roman Catholicism was the state religion.

With the decline of the Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic Church also struggled for a broad and solid foothold but eventually gained its ground having to yield the east and then focusing its energies on Europe and the West in general. It wasn't until the 16th century in Germany and in England that protests against the Supreme and the now longstanding rule of the Roman papacy in Rome began to be fruitful. And this break with Roman Catholicism, initiated by Martin Luther in Germany and King Henry VIII in England, allowed for a government's alternative religious affiliation and religious direction. And what resulted in England was the Church of England. The decidedly Anglican endeavor with the desire to return to the simplicity of apostolic succession. The idea that the church ministry is a continuous line of wisdom and guidance began with Jesus Christ and the Twelve Apostles.

In the modern context of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, the Church of England saw and sees itself today as a middle way between the two. Today, Anglicanism is the national religion of England, tied in various ways to the parliamentary system often with clergy sitting in the parliament. In this reunion of church and state, of course, brings us to the complement of separation of church and state.

So now let's review. So we started with the idea that there are many ways in which religion and government and religious life and civilian life can be involved and dependent upon each other. We used the example of the theocracy to demonstrate that there has been, and still are, many cases where religion and civilian life are quite intertwined and dependent upon each other. Governmental organizations look to religious authority for their support and guidance and understanding. And civilian life really finds its meaning in the religious structures of the government and of the society.

We also looked at the Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church being the state religion for much of the Roman Empire. And we noted the changes that occurred to the Roman Empire throughout Europe and England particularly, noting the development of the Church of England through its break with Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism being the state religion of England to this day.

  • State Religion

    A religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state.

  • National Church

    A concept of a Christian church associated with a specific ethnic group or nation state.