What is Theocracy

In a theocracy, all the laws and regulations of a country derive from the rules established by a particular religion and its god or deity. It is said that this type of government operates under the divine rule, in other words, the deity is recognized as the Head of State. The religious holy book is often treated as a message of the deity and used to formulate the rules of society. A theocracy is often administered by a group of religious figures who claim political authority in the name of these gods or gods. These individuals then interpret the verses of the holy book for political purposes, claiming that they are obeying and enforcing the will of the deity. In other cases, government officials are believed to be direct descendants of these gods.

History of theocracy

The idea behind the theocracy dates back to the first century AD, when it was used to describe the type of government practiced by the Jews. At that time, Flavio Giuseppe claimed that most governments fell into categories 1 of 3: monarchy, democracy or oligarchy. The Jewish form of government, however, could not be classified as such. Their law was defined by Moses through God.

This definition of theocracy was common until the era of the Enlightenment when the term began to take on a negative meaning. With 1622, the English meaning of the term came to describe a priestly government that operated under the divine command. A priestly government is run by a group of priests, who also act as ministers. By 1825, the word theocracy was used to describe a religious body with political and civil power.

Characteristics of a theocracy

Most theocratic governments are structured as a monarchy or a dictatorship. Moreover, theocracies are similar in that people with political power serve first the god of their religion and then the citizens of the country. As mentioned above, these individuals are generally part of the clergy of religion and are not chosen by popular vote. Future leaders get their positions through family inheritance or are chosen by previous leaders. These individuals maintain their positions of government without time limits.

In a theocracy, both the laws and the regulations and cultural norms of the country are based on religious texts. Issues such as marriage, reproductive rights and criminal penalties are also defined on the basis of the religious text. Under a theocracy, residents of a country generally do not have religious freedom and are unable to vote on government decisions.

Which countries currently have a theocracy?

Today, many countries continue to govern from the theocracy. This section of the article takes a look at some of them.

Vatican CITY

The Vatican City, also known as the Holy See, is an example of Catholic theocracy. It was founded in 1929, almost six decades after the Kingdom of Italy conquered Rome and the Papal States. Today, the ruler of the Vatican City is the Pope. Citizens do not elect the Pope, but rather is chosen by the College of Cardinals composed of clerical men. The Pope’s position served for life, ending only after his death or resignation. Once elected, the Pope appoints a Secretary for relations with states charged with maintaining and building relationships with other countries. The only individuals with voting power are the cardinals under the age of 80. The legal system is based on the canon law of the Catholic Church, but the Pope has the last word on which the laws are promulgated.


Iran is one of many Islamic states. Others include Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen. The constitution of Iran has theocratic and democratic components, although the country is considered a theocracy. Every aspect of the government must adhere to the Sharia Islam, the basis for all the rules and regulations in this country. This includes economic, military, political, financial, administrative and civil laws. Special religious courts decide whether these established rules coincide with sharia.

The head of state of the country is a scholar of Islamic law, referred to as the Supreme Leader, who holds more power than the President. The Supreme Leader appoints the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the heads of the armed forces, national television and radio stations, the attorney general and the leaders of religious institutions. This ensures that the government is full of people who abide by Sharia law. The Guardian Council, composed of 12 members appointed by the Supreme Leader, decides whether laws written by Parliament follow Islamic law and can approve or deny them. Furthermore, the Council must approve who can apply for the elected office (including presidential candidates).

Tibetan Central Administration

The Tibetan central administration, sometimes referred to as the Tibetan government in exile, is located in India and works to restore freedom in Tibet. This organization is unique in that it once functioned as a theocracy, but has recently changed its structure. It has no intention of taking political control in Tibet. His goal is to see a Tibetan government ruled by Tibetans. Furthermore, the organization hopes to promote nationalism among Tibetans around the world and expand the structure of the Dalai Lama.

In fact, the high-ranking religious figure of the Dalai Lama was the head of the Tibetan central administration. This structure represented the previous government formation of Tibet, in which even the monks held public offices. In August 2011, however, Lobsang Sangay was elected as Kalon Tripa and the Dalai Lama ceded his power to Sangay. This position is now called Sikyong, which is a secular position.

Advantages of a theocracy

Some researchers believe that theocracies have some advantages. One of the main advantages is that in a theocracy the government is more unified and efficient in decision-making. New laws, amendments and invoices can be signed and promulgated more quickly than in other government systems. This is because a theocracy lacks a legislative branch, which means that low-level public officials are not negotiating the terms of new laws that can often take months.

Disadvantages of a theocracy

A theocracy also has the disadvantage of giving too much power to an individual. This is because the government lacks various branches and a system of checks and balances (which, consequently, makes it faster and more efficient). Under a theocracy, the leader is able to abuse power by issuing rules in the name of divinity. These rules often only work to the advantage of the leader.


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