Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Theocracy is a form of government in which a religion and the government are allied.
The word "theocracy" comes from the Greek theos which means "god," and kratein which means "to rule." Hence, theocracy literally means "rule by god."
In the most common usage of the term theocracy, in which some civil rulers are identical with some leaders of the dominant religion (e.g. the Byzantine emperor as head of the Church), governmental policies are either identical with or strongly influenced by the principles of a religion (often the majority religion), and typically, the government claims to rule on behalf of God or a higher power, as specified by the local religion. However, unlike other forms of government, a theocracy can be unique in that the administrative hierarchy of government is often identical with the administrative hierarchy of a religion. This distinguishes a theocracy from forms of governments which have a state religion or from traditional monarchies in which the head of state claims that his or her authority comes from God.
A more literal term for what is commonly meant by "theocracy" is "ecclesiocracy," which denotes the rule of a religious leader or body in the name of God, as opposed to the literal rule of God.
Between World War I and World War II there were several European countries that were ruled by Fascist movements tied to specific religions that have been called forms of Clerical fascism and by some, theocracies.
Current theocratic nations today include:
- the Islamic Republic of Iran
- the Vatican City/Holy See (see also Papal States)
- the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (the caesaro-papism kind)
Historically, many theocracies have existed on a national level, and many more have existed in communes, cloisters and cities. Some examples of these include:
- Abbasid Caliphate
- Umayyad Caliphate
- Fatimid Caliphate
- Christian and religious Republic of Florence under Savonarola
Many Western democracies today have active political movements that advocate constitutional theocracy.
The concept of theocracy was first coined by Josephus Flavius in the 1st century. He defined theocracy as the characteristic government for Jews. Josephus' definition was widely accepted until the enlightenment era, when the term started to collect more universalistic and undeniably negative connotations, especially in Hegel's hands. After that 'theocracy' has been mostly used to label certain politically unpopular societies as somehow less 'rational' or 'developed'. The concept is often used in sociology also, but rarely or never properly defined for objective scientific usage.
It could be argued that the British monarch is technically a theocratic ruler because of her title as Supreme Governor of the Church of England. However, as the monarch retains only ceremonial authority, most people do not consider the United Kingdom, or any other nations with the British monarch serving as Head of State, as a theocracy.
Theocratic parties and movements
- Christian Democratic Party (Armenia)
- Armenian Nagorno-Karabagh
- Christian Democratic Party (Nagorno Karabagh)
- Christian Voters Community
- Islamic National Unity Front
- Islamic Unity Front
- Islam Conference Bangladesh
- Movement of Citizens for Change
- New Christian Democrats
- Noor Islamic Party
Literary works critical of theocracy
- constitutional monarchy, democracy, ethnocentrism, hierocracy, Islamic republic, monarchy, oligarchy, statolatry, Theonomy, Dominion Theology, Calvinism, Separation of church and state, United States of America.
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