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 popularized the term “secular religion.”

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 chronological selection  (for an expanding topical list, click here)

  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau on “civil religion” (1762)
  • Condorcet on the “political religion” of French education (1791)
  • 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)
  • Luigi Sturzo on the “secular religion” of the absolute state (1918)
  • Carl Schmitt on the analogy of theological and political concepts (1922)
  • Nicolai Berdyaev on communism as religion (1931)
  • Adolf Keller on bolshevism turning Marxism into secular religion (1936)
  • 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)
  • Jacob Talmon on totalitarian democracy and “political messianism” (1952)
  • Carlton Hayes on nationalism: a religion (1960)
  • Waldemar Gurian on totalitarianism as political religion (1964)
  • Robert Bellah on “civil religion” in America (1967)
  • Irving Kristol on socialism’s “secular religion” (1976)
  • 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)
  • Hans Maier [ed.] on totalitarianism and political religions (2004-)
  • Patrick Deneen on “democratic faith” (2005)
  • Emilio Gentile on “politics as religion” (2006)
  • Philip Goodchild on the “theology of money” (2009)
  • Robert Nelson on “holy wars” between economic and environmental religion (2010)
  • Daniel Malachuk on human rights and a “post-secular religion of humanity” (2010)
  • Rainer Bucher on “Hitler’s theology” (2011)
  • Zira Box and and Ismael Saz on Spanish fascism as a political religion (2011)
  • William Cavanaugh on “migrations of the holy” (2011)
  • Mika Luoma-aho on the theology of IR (2012)
  • Henri Féron on human rights as a “world-wide secular religion” (2014)
  • Scott Gustafson on the “altar of Wall Street” (2015)
  • Mathieu Bock-Coté on “multiculturalism as a political religion” (2015)
  • Harvey Cox on the “Market as God” (2016)
  • John Rapley on economic religion (2017)
  • John Gray on atheism as religion (2018)
  • Ulrich Steinvorth on “a secular absolute” (2020)