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Rethinking Religion and World Affairs$
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Timothy Samuel Shah, Alfred Stepan, and Monica Duffy Toft

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199827978

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199827978.001.0001

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Religion, Democracy, and the “Twin Tolerations”

Religion, Democracy, and the “Twin Tolerations”

(p.55) 4 } Religion, Democracy, and the “Twin Tolerations”
Rethinking Religion and World Affairs

Alfred Stepan

Oxford University Press

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

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