Religion, and State Sovereignty

The influence of religion on humankind can be traced back to the

first records of history. Religion has served as a pillar of strength

to some and binding chains to others. There are vast amounts of

information and anthropological studies revealing the interaction of

religion and humankind. However, for the purposes of this paper, the

time periods of study will be broken up into three sections. Each

section will give a general description of how religion affected the

institution of the state and its Sovereignty in a Euro-centric

perspective. The first period is the early period, which will

encompass from Christianity and the Roman Empire to the Medieval

times (approx. 311 to 1100 A.D.). The second period will include the

Renaissance, the Reformation to the Treaty of Westphalia (1101 to

1648 A.D.). The third and increment of history will range from 1649

to 1945 A.D. The date 311 A.D. marks the issuing of the "Edict of

Toleration" for Christians. This date is important because it

symbolizes "national" acceptance of Christianity, and planted its

roots as a political institution. Later the Roman Empire on the verge

of internal collapse acknowledged the importance of Christianity and

used it to hold together the remnants of it former self. This adoption

of Christianity took form and eventually became the Catholic church.

The church became intermingled with politics and became a strong

entity. The policies delivered from the church had more authority than

the local rulers and magistrates of the developing feudal system. For

example, St. Augustine wrote about war and what justified its

enactment against fellow men. This policy was followed and adhered to

for hundreds of years after St. Augustine wrote it. Another example,

is the use of the Bible as a guideline for establishing governing

systems. Scripture portrayed God as choosing the king of the people.

The pope, being God's "representative" was then given the authority to

crown the king. This crowning process gave the pope large influence in

the political arena. This ritual continued for a number of centuries.

The Crusades, which occurred around 1100 A.D., played a crucial

role in challenging the church's authority. The pope identifying the

spread of Islam as evil requested all of Europe embark on a "Crusade"

to defeat the infidels. As the battles were fought, great treasures

were found in the form of books and knowledge. These books were crude

translations of old Greek texts, containing information which would

eventually produce the waning of Church authority in the future. The

Renaissance marked the beginning of intellectual re-birth. Writers

such as Dante, Machiavelli, Guiarccidini, Vitoria, etc., all

attempting to reform and some even contest church dominance. Dante in

his imaginative work "Inferno" writes of hell which he envision is the

pope's final destination. Machiavelli takes a more direct role

classifying the actions of a prince to be above morality and

ultimately above the Church. He continues the affront by classifying a

human character of "virtu" as being completely centered around man


The Raison D' Tat is supreme especially in terms of the church

belligerence. In the middle of the Renaissance, the Church was dealt a

deadly blow from which it would never recover. This assault came via

Martin Luther. His work, "95 Thesis", marked the beginning of the

Reformation. This movement split the church into Catholic and

Proteezt sects. It marked the beginning of a bloody period which

virtually split Europe in half. Examples of the conflict raged between

Proteezts and Catholics from the great slaughter of Proteezts in

Paris 1572 A.D. (7000 dead) to the Thirty Years War. With the Church

in disarray, freedom was given to the "state" to begin to develop.

During this period of Renaissance the political identity was

going through a tremendous transformation. This transformation took

form in what is called Absolutism. "Princes" began to tolerate less

and less manipulation from the church. The political entity in the

form of monarchy began to wean itself from the Church for its

legitimacy and looked toward its own power. Other writers began to

rise and discuss issues of sovereignty and the state. Thomas Hobbes

discusses the state and refers to it as "Leviathan" which is the

concurring title of his work. Believing man to be evil, Hobbes

fashions his description of the state as the mechanism to control and

harness the capabilities of man. There can be no peace as long as