Protestantism and Democracy

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Of the world's 2.3 billion Christians, about 600 million are Protestants of various kinds, 1.1 billion are Catholics, 240 million are Orthodox Christians and the rest are Adventists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Baptists and others.

It is presumed by some people that Protestantism is a particularly democratic religion because:

  • Luther insisted that secular and religious power had to be separated;
  • there is no religious law in Protestantism;
  • the Protestant churches and the clergy are not governed from the top by a pope or patriarch;
  • each church has its own independent board; and
  • those societies where Protestantism is the largest religion are also among the countries where democracy works best.

However, as described in the historical development, this is not the case, unless one, as a Protestant, chooses that it should be. This means that Protestantism is just like all other religions.

Luther was certainly no democrat, and neither were the majority of Protestant priests when democracy was being introduced. They preferred to preserve their privileges under a strong absolute monarchy rather than give power to the people. Moreover, Protestantism pushes the exaltation of irrational beliefs to the extreme, since, according to Luther, people are saved solely by their faith and not by their good deeds.

Protestantism has in practice proved that it was indifferent to whether it existed under a democracy or a dictatorship, but it has the advantage that it does not bring its adherents into conflict with democratic legislation from the outset. The exception here may be those versions of Protestantism which are convinced of the infallibility of the Bible as a scientific document and give biblical text more credence than scientific research and democracy. For example, there are the American evangelists, where figures from 2006 show that:

  • 62% believe that the Bible is literally God's word;
  • 69% believe it was God who gave Israel to the Jews in 1947;
  • 59% believe that Israel's creation is a harbinger for Second Coming of Jesus;
  • 65% reject the theory of evolution; and
  • 60% believe that the Bible should have more influence on legislation than what the majority of people want.

Next chapter: Religion in a Democratic Society