Every government on earth has its own approach to religion. Some see it as a partner, others see it as a threat. Some choose official faiths, others scorn that idea. We'll go to 14 nations around the world, meeting people whose lives have been shaped by the ways their countries balance religion and state.
North America: A Work in Progress
There are a few dozen words in the U.S. Constitution about religion - and they're kind of cryptic. How does our country of 300 million people figure out its entire religion-state arrangement with this handful of phrases? Canada's official balance of religion and government is just as murky, and perhaps that's a blessing.
Jacques Berlinerblau, associate professor of Jewish Civilization at Georgetown University Marc DeGirolami, associate director at the Center for Law and Religion at St. John's University Lori Beaman, professor in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies at the University of Ottawa
Britain: Can It Still Afford Hospital Chaplains?
Britain employs more than a thousand hospital chaplains, who do everything from pray at patients' bedsides to console grieving family members. Like other staff in Britain's free health care system, the National Health Service, their salaries are funded by taxpayers. But with more and more Britons claiming no religion and health care costs rising, the job of the venerable hospital chaplain may be in jeopardy.
Produced by Kim Normanton with series producer Jocelyn Frank Pictured: Mark Burleigh, head of chaplaincy at Leicester University Hospitals.
Britain: Why It Has a State Church
A look at the nation from which both the United States and Canada sprang. Though Britons have freedom of religion, they also have an established church, which Henry VIII created in the 1530s after his break from the Pope.
Linda Woodhead, professor in the department of politics, philosophy and religion at Lancaster University Matthew Engelke, professor in the Department of Anthropology at the London School of Economics
India: A New Face of Hindu Nationalism
This week we journey to India, where a man named Narendra Modi is a leading candidate for the next prime minister. He’s been a boon for the failing economy in his home state of Gujarat. But many minorties are worried about his Hindu nationalism, and say he turned a blind eye to Gujarat's anti-Muslim riots in 2002. Miranda Kennedy traveled to Gujarat’s biggest city - and a Muslim neighborhood called Juhapura - to learn more.
India is soaked in religion. It’s the proud birthplace of many religious traditions: Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism and Hinduism. And it continues to be a spiritual mixing bowl. The Mystify Sound band join us in the studio to bring the spiritual richness of India to life, through Indian classical melodies, Hindu devotionals, and other tunes.
There may be no country in the world right now with a more volatile relationship between religion and government than Egypt. Most Egyptians are Sunni Muslim. And most say the government should play a role in religious life - just how much is an open question. The now-deposed Islamist President, Mohamed Morsi, offered one answer, but critics say he went too far in blurring the lines between religion and state.
Now the new military-backed government is promoting its own brand of religious thought, mainly through a Sunni Muslim institution called Al-Azhar University (pictured.)
Photos from Cairo by Kimberly Adams, from her story on Al-Azhar. Click on the double arrows on the bottom right to view full captions.
Does Religion Cause War?
Religious violence around the world reached a six-year high in 2012, from attacks on monks in Sri Lanka to bombings of Coptic churches in Egypt. That's according to a new Pew Research study, which found "high religious hostilities" in one third of the countries polled. But are those conflicts really caused by religious differences? Probably not. This week, we're zooming into one spiritual rivalry that's more complex than it seems: the clash between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
Gregory Gause, professor of international relations and Middle Eastern politics at the University of Vermont Lesley Hazelton, author of The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad
Guatemala: Grappling with a Legacy of Violence
Efrain Rios Montt ruled Guatemala from 1982 to 1983 as its first Evangelical Christian President. During his short time in office, thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed as part of that country's civil war against guerillas and their supporters. Today, Guatemala is still trying to make sense of it all. This week we ask, what role did religion play in the conflict? And what role is religion playing today as the country tries to move forward?
Pictured: Marta Gallegos, a victim of violence during Guatemala's decades-long civil war. Photo by Ben Parker.
If you remember anything you learned about the French Revolution -- anything that doesn’t involve cake -- it’s probably the famous three-word motto: liberty, equality, fraternity. For more than 200 years, those ideals have served as the pillars of the French Republic. While the staunchly secular government officially recognizes all faiths as equal, it puts strict limits in those religions is sees as a threat to national identity.
We begin our journey to France with a look at Scientology, Jehova's Witnesses and other religions the government classifies as dangerous "cults." Reporter Gerry Hadden brings us the story. Thanks to producers Jocelyn Frank and Jonathan Miller.
The photos below are from our story on cults in France, all taken by Gerry Haden.
France: In the Studio with Stephane Wrembel
We end our journey to France with a truly special treat - our own private concert with the French-American guitar virtuoso, Stephane Wrembel. Wrembel is a spiritual seeker, preferring to explore many paths over one particular faith. If he does approach religion in some way, it’s through making music - he thinks of the creative process as a mystical journey. He tells us, "This is what I hope for my audience: to bring people with me in an awakened dream, in a state of dreaming."
We weren't able to include his full live performance in our radio broadcast, so please enjoy his complete songs below.