Religion, Democracy, and the “Twin Tolerations”

Alfred Stepan

in Rethinking Religion and World Affairs

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199827978
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933020 | DOI:
Religion, Democracy, and the “Twin Tolerations”

Show Summary Details


Are all, or only some, of the world's religious systems politically compatible with democracy? This is, of course, one of the most important and heatedly debated questions of our times. This chapter contributes to this debate from the perspective of comparative politics. More specifically, it discusses three questions, the answers to which should improve our understanding of this critical issue. First, what are the minimal institutional and political requirements that a polity must satisfy before it can be considered a democracy? Second, how have a set of longstanding democracies—the fifteen countries in the European Union (EU)—actually met these requirements, and what influential misinterpretations of the Western European experience with religion and democracy must we avoid? Third, what are the implications of the answers to our first two questions for polities heavily influenced by such cultural and religious traditions as Confucianism, Islam, and Eastern Orthodox Christianity—traditions that some analysts, starting from a civilizational as opposed to an institutional perspective, see as presenting major obstacles to democracy?

Keywords: comparative politics; European Union; polity; Confucianism; Islam; Eastern Orthodox Christianity; democratization

Chapter.  8779 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.