Ethics, Politics, and Global Dynamics

It may be understood that in order to have any politics (e.g., written and unwritten laws, policies, and customary practices, including approaches to interpreting them) there must be ethics (i.e., a sense of what ought to be, a sense of norms and values); and to have an ethic one must have a metaphysic. At least a culturally implied metaphysic. And metaphysics—whether explicit or implicit, or narrowly or broadly understood—have conventionally been a domain for what may be understood as religion.

In this sense, not only a theocracy (like modern Iran) or countries and political parties with established official religions (like England with the Anglican Church or the BJP of India with Hinduism) but even modern secularists or explicitly anti-religious states articulate a “religion,”  be it the Confucianism of Maoist China, shrines to human reason in Revolutionary France or Latin America, or the axis mundi and surrounding “pantheons” of the U.S. National Mall. In other words, just as any claim to being apolitical is in itself a political position, personal or cultural efforts at being secular or non-religious still consist of a religious articulation.

The study of religion at George Mason—a university named after one of the main intellectual authors of the idea of freedom of religion in Virginia, the United States, and by extension parts of the globalizing world—includes a focus on the historically strategic and unintentional engagements between religion and law, religion and professional ethics (e.g., biomedical ethics, business ethics, legal ethics, etc.), as well as the development of the morals of specific religions and comparatively across religions.

Any study of the history of law and types of jurisprudence, modern national constitutions and international legislation, let alone notions of peace, justice, freedom, or rights in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world is enhanced by (and is deficient without) a critical understanding of religion.

Study what (more profoundly) matters.