Image via WikipediaTo understand the effects of religion, it can be instructive to examine what happens when church and state merge into a single entity. This is precisely what one observes in a theocracy, and it shows us what the religious would do if they had the power to make and enforce laws. Although there are certainly groups with theocratic leanings in the U.S. and other Western democracies, the clearest examples of true theocracies are found in Muslim nations. In such countries, we can learn a great deal about Islam by studying Sharia law and its enforcement.
Let us suppose that Islam is a peaceful religion in which tolerance of human differences are valued and persons are to be treated with kindness and respect. We would expect to see evidence of this in Islamic law. Great value would be placed on human life, social harmony, and service to the collective good. Conflict would be discouraged, and armed conflict would be rare. Punishments, when deemed necessary, would fit the crimes.
Sadly, we see something quite different when we examine Sharia law. Women are not afforded the same worth as men. Spousal rape and battery are permissible, and unmarried female victims of rape are to be killed. Apostasy is punishable by death.
We could go on and on, but that probably is not necessary to make the desired point. When religious people have the power to make and enforce laws based on their religion, what they do can reveal a great deal about the nature of their beliefs. Thus, we can learn a great deal about Islam from examining Sharia law in both Muslim theocracies and Western democracies who are not willing to oppose religious extremism.
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