Article written by DPDF 2010 After Secularization: New Approaches to Religion and Modernity Fellow David T. Buckley, featured in the Comparative Political Studies Journal.
What explains cross-national variation in support for religious politics? More precisely, why do even observant believers show uneven demand for clerical control of politics? In contrast to theoretical alternatives, I argue that demand for clerical control of politics is a sign of relative weakness tied to low popular religious participation, which alters the risks and benefits of clerical political involvement. Two social mechanisms explain this relationship in contexts of active religious participation: strong networks between religious and state elites, and high levels of political diversity within religious communities. World Values Survey data provide statistical evidence that (a) support for clerical involvement in politics among regular participators is highest and (b) gaps between high and low religious participation citizens are largest where aggregate participation is lowest. Qualitative evidence regarding the theory’s mechanisms draws on field interviews in the Philippines during recent church–state tension.