Political theology

Political theology, political religion, secular religion

“All concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts.” Carl Schmitt’s famous dictum was only about conceptual analogies (hence the title Political Theology), but a few years later Eric Voegelin was already writing on Political Religions in a broader sense, and soon Raymond Aron coined the term “Secular Religions” as well.

Now “secular religion” is an oxymoron, of course, yet the number of political, socio-economic, or cultural phenomena described as secular (or pseudo, quasi, ersatz, etc.) religions, faiths, and belief systems is constantly on the rise.

A brief chronology

  • Alexis de Tocqueville on the “omnipotence of the majority” (1835)
  • John Stuart Mill on the “false creed” of American democracy (1861)
  • Herbert Spencer on the “divine right of parliaments” (1884)
  • Gaetano Mosca on Rousseau and Marx as religious founders (1896)
  • Vilfredo Pareto on the “divinity of suffrage” (1916) 
  • Carl Schmitt on the analogy of theological and political concepts (1922)
  • Nicolai Berdyaev on communism as religion (1931)
  • Eric Voegelin on “political religions” (1938)
  • Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn on the dogmas of democracy (1943)
  • Raymond Aron on “the future of secular religions” (1944)
  • Crane Brinton on democracy as a “truly transcendental faith” (1950)
  • Ernst Kantorowicz on medieval political theology (1957)
  • Carlton Hayes on nationalism as religion (1960)
  • Waldemar Gurian on totalitarianism as political religion (1964)
  • Hans Kelsen on secular religions (1964)
  • Robert Bellah on “civil religion” in America (1967)
  • John Bossy on the “migration of the holy” (1987)
  • Paul Vitz on psychology as religion (1994)
  • Emilio Gentile on the “sacralization of politics” in fascist Italy (1996)
  • Robert Nelson on economic religion (2001)
  • Barry Cooper on the “new political religions” of terrorism (2004)
  • Emilio Gentile on “politics as religion” (2006)
  • Patrick Deneen on “democratic faith” (2007)
  • Angela Astoria Kurtz, on national socialism as “political religion” (2009)
  • Philip Goodchild on the “theology of money” (2009)
  • Robert Nelson on “holy wars” between economic and environmental religion (2010)
  • Rainer Bucher on “Hitler’s theology” (2011)
  • William Cavanaugh on “migrations of the holy” (2011)
  • Mika Luoma-aho on the theology of IR (2012)
  • Gustafson on the “altar of Wall Street” (2015)
  • Harvey Cox on the “Market as God” (2016)
  • John Rapley on economic religion (2017)
  • John Gray on atheism as religion (2018)