1. News & Issues
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.



Muslims Prepare for Annual Hajj in Mecca
Muhannad Fala'ah/Stringer/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Definition: A theocracy ("theo-" = God, "-cracy" = government) is a government operated under divine rule, or the pretense of divine rule. In practice, this term refers to a government operated by religious authorities who claim unlimited power in the name of God or other supernatural forces.

There are many governments--including the United States--in which leaders invoke God, or claim to be inspired by God, or claim to obey the will of God. This does not, in practice, make a government a theocracy. What makes a government a theocracy is when lawmakers actually believe that leaders are governed by the will of God, and write laws predicated on this belief.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are often cited as modern examples of theocratic governments. In practice, North Korea also resembles a theocracy due to the supernatural powers attributed to Kim Jong-il; and the comparable deference he receives from other government officials, the military; and the hundreds of thousands of indoctrination centers that center on devotion to his will and legacy.

There are theocratic movements in virtually every country on Earth, but true contemporary theocracies are primarily found in the Muslim world.
Common Misspellings: theocrasy
  1. About.com
  2. News & Issues
  3. Civil Liberties

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.