Maybe, like me, you’re asking yourself if religion doesn’t bring too many atrocities. I am referring to the contemporary assassinations by the Islamic State, but also to the wrongs caused by the Inquisition and the murders committed by Buddhist monks on Hindus. Doesn’t the conclusion come to mind? Is not religion a source of intolerance and violence?

Despite all this, I think not – religious faith does not necessarily lead to cruelty. Because faith must not impose anything or harm anyone. This is already called ideology, not faith. And it is ideology that threatens freedom, sows hatred and “entitles to create a better man”. Religion, however, as I am about to show, is not an ideology, although it can lead to it. We will first outline the definition of an ideology, then, for example, compare it with Catholicism and Islam.

A given worldview is an ideology when:

1) it has a transcendent justification, that is, it refers to a deity (a deity can be anything, including a nation or science).
2) it contains a concrete plan for the organization of social and political life according to this worldview.
3) realizes this plan, even with the help of force.

We will now compare Catholicism with this definition of ideology and show that this religion is not an ideology, although there is a danger of turning it into an ideology, as history has shown. We must therefore examine the Catholic concept of truth, the attitude to social life and religious freedom.

Catholic truth – absolute but relative

Every Catholic will agree that God is the source of Truth (by big pe). Everyone also has to admit that God, and therefore the Truth, cannot be known completely, according to Augustine’s principle, what you have managed to understand by reason is not God. Thus, Catholicism does not meet the first condition – it does not claim the Truth, admitting honestly that it has only learned a piece of it, and in addition, it is entangled in a certain culture and history. Thus, a Catholic believes that both truth and absolute values exist, but he realizes that he is not able to know and take them over completely.

Catholic politics – a contradiction

Give to God what is divine and to the Emperor what is imperial. Although there are certain demands in the Church’s teaching concerning social life – respect for human dignity, assistance to the poor, etc. – the Church does not impose any particular political system, much less any party or politics.

A Catholic regime?

The third feature of ideology is the easiest to reject – a religion that promotes values such as the freedom of the individual cannot under any circumstances impose its truth on others, because it respects the religious freedom of each person.

Therefore, Catholicism does not meet any of the conditions of ideology, although there will certainly be Catholics whose worldview meets some (or all) of the characteristics of ideology. However, such believers are officially condemned by the Church, and we can separate them from Catholics by giving them the title of ideologized fanatics.

How to separate religious faith from ideology?

Looking at other religions, we can see that all have (more or less) ideological potential. Therefore, we will consider how to distinguish them. Based on the previous definition, we can ask ourselves three questions that will help us to do this:

1) Does a religion violate freedom of conscience and deny religious freedom? (e.g., when a believer decides to abandon this religion, does the community of believers stigmatize it or force it to return?).
2) Is political power combined with religious power in doctrine? (I will remind you that this threatens the use of religion for politics and politics for religion)
3) Is there a concrete project of political life and a recommendation for its implementation embedded in the structure of this religion?

These three questions give us a neat method of orienting ourselves in the religious-political reality. As I have shown, Catholicism is not an ideology – it receives no positive answer to any of these questions. But in the past it was different – the Crusades and the Inquisition showed that it is possible to reduce the Christian faith to an ideological one. That is why it is so important to recognize and disarm ideology.

Is Islam an ideology?

This question is often asked today, so it is worth taking it up here. By analyzing the religion of Mohammedan, we can see the greatest ideological tendency among the great religions of the world. First of all, in the Quran we find a fairly simple concept of truth and good that describes the whole of life and society.

Secondly, many Muslims do not separate religious and political power; moreover, such separation is considered heresy. Thirdly, the question can be asked whether the doctrine really respects freedom of conscience and religious freedom – let’s look at how Mohammedans treat people who have decided to abandon Islam.

These arguments do not, of course, prove that Islam is an ideology because it is not. They only show that it has a greater tendency (than Christianity) to become one, that is all.

So we know a little more about ideologies and their relationship to religions. It is worth noting, however, that ideologies do not come from religion alone, and sometimes even arise in opposition to it (Scientism, Nazism, Communism). What we have said can be used for a more accurate recognition of ideologies.