Religion is necessary to politics, because the idea of the person is necessary to politics. The person is in fact something only perceptible by faith. By science or philosophy, you can determine many things about the nature of Homo Sapiens, but you cannot demonstrate their personhood. By these methods, you may discover various different ways of how they work, engaging various material, or even “spiritual”, mechanisms within the creature, but you won’t find that it is a person to relate to, to engage and commune with, that participates in the unfathomable mystery at the foundation of the universe, and so has universal rights.
Persons and personhood, cannot be proven or discovered, but only encountered. They are too profound to be found through our external and detached methodologies, but must be met, and communed with. Personhood is a truth we can only accept on faith, born of encounter.
Of course, you don’t have to be “religious” to encounter and accept the reality of personhood. People from any religion (I think…) or none can. But it is a thoroughly religious idea.
And without a solid, well built faith, the idea of personhood will be attacked on all sides, by various ideas of ‘pragmatism’, ‘utility’, ‘realism’, ‘moderation’, ‘fairness’, ‘liberty’, and even ‘compassion’. Personhood must be held to tightly at all times, or it will not last, and with it, the dignity of many lives. But personhood is difficult to hold alone, because it refuses all compromise, and to be strengthened needs to be part of a larger system of mystery. That is, personhood cannot well last, if it is understood as an isolated reality, without proper relationship to the rest of existence; it requires to be placed in relationship with a similarly profound mystery of all that is, that is also to profound for any knowledge but the knowledge born of encounter: the knowledge of faith.
Believers, when engaged in politics, cannot leave religion at the front door, because it will leave personhood, which should be the heart of all politics, exposed and vulnerable, to inferior ideas making reckless use of lesser truths. When the true principle of man’s life, that is, man’s relationship to the divine, is ignored, life is easily denigrated, and we end up with a culture of death.
In practice, personhood means that humans are not things to be used, but people to love. From this view, we can see that society’s focus shouldn’t be the individual or the collective, but the community, which transcends and harmonises both, in a shared life of dynamic love.
God bless you
P.S. I hope to write more posts on politics and society soon.