Define religiousness to be the believe in a supreme God such as the one from the Abrahamic religions.

Inherently, this is an anti-democratic state of affairs. God is the leader, God is the voice of all reason and morality, submission to God is mandatory, and opposition of any kind can and will be penalized.

Is it then not hypocritical of a believer in such a religion to be in favor of democracy as an ideal?

I stress the fact that the support most be idealistic. Obviously from a grounded practical perspective, anybody with a bit of sense would, regardless of their religious stance, prefer democracy over the dictatorships and tyrannies that have otherwise been present on planet Earth. This is not the kind of support I have in mind. Rather, I am talking specifically about religious people who uphold ideals such as democracy and freedom as absolutely and inherently good. In particular I find such sentiments amongst many American Christians who uphold these ideals almost above all else.

Do such ideals not directly contradict their belief in God and the anti-democratic hierarchy that God establishes?

  • 1
    I think you will find that the second paragraph (beginning with "inherently") is true for people who do support theocracy, as with divine-right kings, the David / Solomon kingdom of Israel, the Pharisees / Saducees of Roman Judea, and Sharia law. But this is not true for others, such as Constantine (who destroyed government-owned temples but did not force conversion), the Moors in Spain before the 10th century (who did not force conversion), and the Whig government, which in 1753 passed England's Jewish Naturalization Act. Dec 3, 2018 at 17:30
  • 1
    I do not follow the logic. "My kingdom is not of this world", says Jesus, so how is submission to God ("in spirit") in conflict with the majority rule in this world, even as an ideal? Perhaps, it is inherently good, ideal, etc., for this world. This is even aside from the fact that the majority rule is hardly material for ideals, even for this world, and most supporters simply take it as currently the best available option. Churchill's "democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time" is well known.
    – Conifold
    Dec 3, 2018 at 23:23

3 Answers 3


Some Baptist/Anabaptist sects' interpretation here is that democracy may be the only way to access the will of God, since it is necessarily interpreted by humans. Instead of an absolute hierarchy like that of the Catholic Church, religions influenced by Anabaptism make doctrinal decisions by voting. They assume the word of God is equally clear to any who pursue it.

Various evidence comes from Biblical interpretations. Prophets came to convince humans, and might often have failed to get the right response from the larger community because of hierarchical structures in place that did not work well enough. They might have succeeded better in a democratic context. This is part of the warning the Jews got about the evils of having a king, and part of why the Biblical coverage of David documents ways in which he was openly immoral, despite being the best candidate for the job, chosen by God.

Of course, that involves making sure that those doing the voting are talking about the same things. So these are always religions that require an explicit acceptance of membership. They do not simply baptize your children automatically, they expect the child to explicitly request membership and prove their understanding of what is going on. This is the origin of the 'Anabaptist' name -- they re-baptized people if they had not explicitly requested baptism the first time.

Even more hierarchical religions still end up using democratic processes to choose who to elevate within the hierarchy. So there is a small part of the same insight even in Catholicism -- just with a much more intensive vetting process.


Empirically, God very rarely or never messes with the world, other than by inspiring individuals. This means that, for government, we're not talking about rule by God, but by people who claim to speak for God. If we believe that people have reasonably equal access to God, or can have, then democracy is attractive since it crowdsources God's will.

It's reasonable for someone religious to believe that humans need to rule themselves in this world, even if God directly rules in the next world. In that case, the religion may be irrelevant to the form of government.

Someone could believe that every person has a right to help govern, whether they do well or not, allowing scope for free will that God may or may not judge.

Someone may believe that earthly government is basically irrelevant (Jesus seemed to think so), and may therefore think democracy is the best among options that really don't matter.

  • 2
    Jesus did criticize the Pharisees' use of "Moses' seat", in reference to the seat of Israel's first theocratic judicial system, to burden folks with moralistic requirements (Matthew 23:2). Jesus actively opposed oppressive government! Dec 3, 2018 at 19:19

Balebale, and welcome to PSE. There are a number of angles on your most interesting question.

  1. If God is the author or creator of 'absolute and inherent values', then there is nothing logically to prevent God from creating democracy as such a value. If faith, hope and love, why not democracy ?

  2. It is unlikely that democracy is in fact such a value from the Abrahamic monotheistic perspective because there is no necessary connection between divine commands and democratic decision-making. One could have a militantly atheistic democracy or one that mistakes divine commands.

  3. Yet there is a need even under an ethics of divine commands for collective decision-making in regard to which divine commands offer no specific guidance. Whether to build a hospital or a school, a bridge or a road, a shelter for the homeless or more help for the mentally ill. Given finite resources such decisions have to be made without any direct clarity from divine commands. Why not democracy as a way of making such decision ?

  4. One answer to that question links straight back the Abrahamic God. As children of God, the argument goes, we are all equal : equally loved and valued by God. There is in this sense kinship and equality between us. Democracy as an ideal, whatever else it may be, is the politics of human equality and as such can be seen as a proper reflection in politics of our total relationship with God - under God's supremacy but equal to one another.

I am exploring logical possibilities here, not expressing a political theology of my own.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .