Originally Posted by Thao
Oh, and I have to add that I don't think that a universalist attitude towards religions ("this for me and that for you") is a function of how passionate one is toward their religion, it is a function of the religious beliefs themselves. There are religions that are not universalist, so even the most passionate believers accept that another religion may work better for another person. Buddhism is one. From what I've learned from the Jewish people on this board, I think Judaism is another. I'm sure there are more that I don't know about.
You know, Buddhism is traditionally concidered a missionary religion. Yes, many Buddhists feel the way you describe, including I believe the Dali Lama, but I don't think their reasoning is really comparable to Judaism.
As for the original question. It seems to me that a lot of theocracies have two things in common. One is that they often have a very large majority of people who belong to one religion.
The other is that they reject the possibility of secularism. And I don't think that it is so much that they think it is a bad thing, but they think it is not really possible.
In our system, the institutions of church and state are seperate. People's beliefs, though, do enter into government because the voters have beliefs, religious or otherwise, as do the representatives. Now in some cases we suspend those beliefs, allowing each individual to work them out for themselves. Usually there is a way to judge what kinds of latitude individuals need to be given, in a constitution for example. (Though there are cases where it can be very difficult.)
But theocratic systems would usually say that is a fools' dream. I suspect they would agree that belief (religion) and action (government) are always connected in the individual, and so we cannot separate them at the institutional level either. So both would see the individual as in a way the primary unit in the community, but the conclusions they draw are really different.
It also strikes me that secular systems really only work if there are a core set of beliefs that all religions or worldviews embrace in a similar way. If we ever had a sizable group of people with fundamentally different ideas about most things in our population (selfishness is good) then it would be a real problem.
Mind you, I don't think that is likely, but who knows?
I know we tend to think of some of the more brutal regimes when we talk about theocracy, but what about Bhutan?