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In Tibetan Buddhism, one important way to assume a religious role is by reincarnation . They believe that when their important religious leaders, like the Dalai Lama, die, they will come back in another body to lead them again. So, a few years after the leader's death, they send out a search party for the young boy who is the new appearance of the leader. He will then be trained to take up his position once again. This is a variation on the aristocratic theme. Once the process is complete, however, the Dalai Lama will rule in a monarchic fashion.


It is tempting to think that democracy is the obvious next step and one towards which all religions are striving. But that would be wrong. In fact, democracy is rare in the religious world. It arises only in certain unusual circumstances.

Nor should we think that any one of these ways of organising a religion is necessarily "better" than any other. In the political world, democracy is certainly very desirable. But even within a democratic state, there are many organisations that are not democratic, and this is accepted by all. The military and business worlds, for example, are oligarchic in nature – what the generals or the company directors want to happen, happens. Universities are also oligarchic. Some countries tried to democratise their universities back in the 1960s, with students setting standards and policies. All of those experiments have been quietly abandoned. They just did not work.

One should also consider that if a religion believes that it is ultimately under the rule of God, then in a way it will always be a monarchy, even if at a lower level it is structured in a democratic way. Christians, for example, pray "Thy kingdom come", not "Thy democracy come”!

Delegates during the meeting of the 176th Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (c) Public Domain via Wikimedia.

Where we do find religious democracies, they are often structured in a way similar to that of political ones. Members at a low level elect members to represent them at a religious "parliament", like a synod . At the synod, the representatives will then elect from among themselves a small number of people who act as the permanent "cabinet" of that organisation. They effectively rule the organisation until the synod meets again.

Why is this not an oligarchy, then? Because every couple of years the membership has the opportunity, if it wants to, to get rid of their representatives and elect new ones. Hindus can not elect a new Brahmin caste, nor can all the Catholics in the world elect a new Pope. But in democratic institutions, this can and does happen.

Christianity probably has the largest number of democratic organisations, but it is also prominent in the Baha'i Faith. In this religion, the Local Spiritual Communities in an area meet once a year to elect a representative to a National Convention. This convention then elects a National Spiritual Assembly for that country and for that year only. But every four years, the same process is repeated internationally to elect the Universal House of Justice, the highest authority in the Baha'i Faith, which meets in Haifa, Israel.

Many Protestant churches are of the congregational type. They are self–governing local churches who are sometimes affiliated into a cooperative body so that they can work together on large programmes of shared concern. These include Baptists, Mennonites, and many of the independent charismatic churches. The individual congregations remain independent. Other Protestant churches such as the Presbyterians and the Lutherans have democratic participation at the local church, but they also send representatives to national bodies, where top–level decisions are made.

The Society of Friends, or the Quakers, as they are also known, are an example of an extremely democratic organisation. They have no leaders and anyone in their meetings is allowed to speak at any time.

Mixed and transitional systems

Naturally, this neat system of ours does not always work out in practice. In many monarchic organisations, a certain amount of democratic practice is allowed at lower levels. And in some formally democratic systems, we see that the same individuals somehow get themselves elected again and again until the organisation starts to look more and more like an oligarchy.

There are also religions that seem to fall out of our system altogether. Islam is a good example. On some levels, Islam is extremely democratic. All Muslims are equal and pray together shoulder to shoulder. One is not born an imam , one cannot buy that status or get it simply by studying hard. You become an imam when the community at your local mosque decides that you are worthy of it. When that day arrives, they simply start calling you by your new title.

But Muslims do not elect representatives to a "parliament" of all Muslims to rule over them. Instead, Islamic law rules, and the interpreters of that law, who have studied it long and hard, serve as an oligarchic element that binds Muslims around the world together. In Islamic countries where the majority of the population are Muslim, there is often a co–operative relationship between politics and religion. The life of the population is governed by the Islamic law (the Sharia) and this often forms the basis of civil law as well. This aspect is theocratic.

So, this tells us that there can be "mixed" forms of religious governance, in which monarchic, oligarchic and democratic elements combine in various proportions. If a religion used to have one kind of governance, and it is clearly moving towards another, then perhaps right now it is in a "transitional" phase.

Questions & Answers

find the 15th term of the geometric sequince whose first is 18 and last term of 387
Jerwin Reply
The given of f(x=x-2. then what is the value of this f(3) 5f(x+1)
virgelyn Reply
hmm well what is the answer
how do they get the third part x = (32)5/4
kinnecy Reply
can someone help me with some logarithmic and exponential equations.
Jeffrey Reply
sure. what is your question?
okay, so you have 6 raised to the power of 2. what is that part of your answer
I don't understand what the A with approx sign and the boxed x mean
it think it's written 20/(X-6)^2 so it's 20 divided by X-6 squared
I'm not sure why it wrote it the other way
I got X =-6
ok. so take the square root of both sides, now you have plus or minus the square root of 20= x-6
oops. ignore that.
so you not have an equal sign anywhere in the original equation?
is it a question of log
Commplementary angles
Idrissa Reply
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what is a good calculator for all algebra; would a Casio fx 260 work with all algebra equations? please name the cheapest, thanks.
Kevin Reply
a perfect square v²+2v+_
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Abdirahman Reply
algebra 2 Inequalities:If equation 2 = 0 it is an open set?
Kim Reply
or infinite solutions?
The answer is neither. The function, 2 = 0 cannot exist. Hence, the function is undefined.
Embra Reply
if |A| not equal to 0 and order of A is n prove that adj (adj A = |A|
Nancy Reply
rolling four fair dice and getting an even number an all four dice
ramon Reply
Kristine 2*2*2=8
Bridget Reply
Differences Between Laspeyres and Paasche Indices
Emedobi Reply
No. 7x -4y is simplified from 4x + (3y + 3x) -7y
Mary Reply
how do you translate this in Algebraic Expressions
linda Reply
Need to simplify the expresin. 3/7 (x+y)-1/7 (x-1)=
Crystal Reply
. After 3 months on a diet, Lisa had lost 12% of her original weight. She lost 21 pounds. What was Lisa's original weight?
Chris Reply
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Damian Reply
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abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
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I'm interested in nanotube
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Victor Reply
Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
good afternoon madam
what is system testing
what is the application of nanotechnology?
In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
anybody can imagine what will be happen after 100 years from now in nano tech world
after 100 year this will be not nanotechnology maybe this technology name will be change . maybe aftet 100 year . we work on electron lable practically about its properties and behaviour by the different instruments
name doesn't matter , whatever it will be change... I'm taking about effect on circumstances of the microscopic world
how hard could it be to apply nanotechnology against viral infections such HIV or Ebola?
silver nanoparticles could handle the job?
not now but maybe in future only AgNP maybe any other nanomaterials
I'm interested in Nanotube
this technology will not going on for the long time , so I'm thinking about femtotechnology 10^-15
can nanotechnology change the direction of the face of the world
Prasenjit Reply
At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
Ali Reply
the Beer law works very well for dilute solutions but fails for very high concentrations. why?
bamidele Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Learning about religion. OpenStax CNX. Apr 18, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11780/1.1
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