Religion as an overlooked element of international relations

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Religion is among the most overlooked factors in the study of international politics. Some reasons for this include a bias against the study of religion that dates to the origins of the social sciences, the influence on social scientists of classical liberal ideas that stress the separation of church and state, and the fact that religion is difficult to quantify. Nevertheless, the essay holds that religion influences international politics in three ways: 1) religion influences the worldviews of many decisionmakers and their constituents and shapes the environment in which decisionmakers act; 2) religion is a source of legitimacy for political decisions and actions; 3) religion is an issue that crosses borders in many ways, including domestic conflicts with international implications. Equally significant are international religious movements, like fundamentalist movements and political Islam, and the foreign policies of theocratic states and other governments, which are guided by religious ideologies. Attention focuses on the international movement for the support of religious rights in the context of the world's growing interdependence. This underscores the importance of religion in the study of international politics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-73
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Studies Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001


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