Whenever I fill in a form, it invariably asks if I have any Religion that I wish to state. I suppose that this harps back to a time when burial rites were significant, or where employers would not countenance taking on workers holding a particular belief. Political affiliations are never requested. They are considered to be a private thing, part of a secret ballot, and something that you need never divulge. Yet to me, they are just as much a part of you as any religion, and just as pertinent to ascertaining your background, desires, and preferences, as your denomination or involvement in a particular church might reveal. In my case, Politics, and belief in one type of political system, is a religion in itself.
The two are also inseparable, both historically, and in today’s world. There are numerous examples. If you are in the Police Force in Northern Ireland, or you support the Unionist parties, it is almost certain that you will be a Protestant. Likewise, if you are a supporter of Sinn Fein, you are going to be from a Catholic background. Football clubs attract support based on religion too. Rangers fans in Glasgow are generally Protestants, with Catholics favouring Celtic. This is repeated in towns and cities across Scotland, though has never been such an issue further South. We have seen the extreme examples of religious divide, both in our own country, and more recently, in the Balkans, and in Arabic countries, where Sunni and Shiite Muslims clash frequently. These foreign factions also favour opposite sides in Politics, in their own countries.
In European history, the Catholic Church has traditionally supported the Right, with the Left rarely getting support from any religion, and usually asking for none. In some states where political doctrines have replaced religious ones, organised religion is frowned upon, and even actively discouraged. In others, it is tolerated, as long as it does not try to interfere with the workings of the state. During some revolutions, notably Franco’s uprising in Spain, religion has been used as a Cause, and the opponents despised, as godless and soulless. Given the recent revelations about Vatican financial corruption, and the vast wealth of the church everywhere, it may seem amazing that people can still cling so rigidly to their beliefs. The numerous sex scandals involving priests also seem to have no effect on the true believers, and they even seem willing to forgive the transgressors.
I can see the truth in this though. If you believe strongly enough in an idea, the mishandling by those that organise the day to day administration of the material aspects of that faith, or belief, is not a reason to abandon something that you regard as pure in concept. In the same way, when many Communists deserted the party in the 1950’s, apparently horrified by Stalin’s excesses, and the soviet intrusions into other European sovereign states, they forgot that these were just people. The ideas were still sound, and the original political beliefs that gave rise to the movement, still existed in the same form. Only people had intervened, and that was not justification to abandon something long held dear. To me, political belief is even stronger than religious belief. One depends solely on faith, but the other has results that can be seen, and that can do good, even allowing for the interference of some. It is not dependent on a future in an idealised existence in a non-physical form, as the results are tangible during life.
I would like Political affiliation to be added to these forms, in much the same way as religion. It could be avoided, for those afraid to state their cause, in the same way as I can state ‘Agnostic’, or ‘No religion’. The trouble is, I somehow doubt that I will ever see the word ‘Communist’ in a drop-down box. Not in my lifetime, and not in this country.