Secular or Religious Control Lead to Varying Outcomes for Development of Nation-State

Adherents of various religions have attempted, over time, to gain control of and dominate the machinery of the society.  Several major issues arise when this occurs, and they can impede the development of the nation-state as a consistent and functioning entity with a psychological unity.  By its very nature, religions do not hold as their primary goal or duty the management of the resources of the state and the financial and quality of life needs of the citizens.  Additionally, where a heterogeneous society exists, certain religions are effectively disenfranchised , or at least somewhat biased against, when one dominant religion attempts to control the secular functions.  It was the dominance of secular governance which aided Europe in developing strong nation-state units.   This may mean entire separation of Church and State, predominant control by a secular over a sacerdotal administration or a society where the two functions were melded effectively so that a balance prevailed.

Sri Aurobindo explores this issue:  “The struggle between the Church and the monarchical State is one of the most important and vital features of the history of Europe.  Had that conflict ended in an opposite result, the whole future of humanity would have been in jeopardy.  As it was, the Church was obliged to renounce its claim to independence and dominance over the temporal power.”

Sri Aurobindo concludes that there is something of a natural law governing the development of the nation-state:  “…the passionate determination of the liberated Italian people to establish its King in Rome was really a symbol of the law that a self-conscious and politically organised nation can have only one supreme and central authority admitted in its midst and that must be the secular power.  The nation which has reached or is reaching this stage must either separate the religious and spiritual claim from its common secular and political life by individualising religion or else it must unite the two by the alliance of the State and the Church to uphold the single authority of the temporal head or combine the spiritual and temporal headship in one authority as was done in Japan and China and in England of the Reformation.  Even in India the people which first developed some national self-consciousness not of a predominantly spiritual character were the Rajputs, especially of Mewar, to whom the Raja was in every way the head of society and of the nation; and the peoples which having achieved national self-consciousness came nearest to achieving also organised political unity were the Sikhs for whom Guru Govind Singh deliberately devised a common secular and spiritual centre in the Khalsa, and the Mahrattas who not only established a secular head, representative of the conscious nation, but so secularised themselves that, as it were, the whole people indiscriminately, Brahmin and Shudra, became for a time potentially a people of soldiers, politicians and administrators.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part One, Chapter 13, The Formation of the Nation-Unit — The Three Stages, pp. 106-107

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