Political Religion: Transformation of a Political Concept and Its Ethical Consequences

In: Transformation of Religion
Author:
Ingeborg G. Gabriel
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Abstract

The term “political religion” has acquired a range of rather varied meanings, the terminology changing according to historical circumstances. It originated in the interwar period as an expression for the new phenomenon of secularist totalitarianisms, lacking a transcendental perspective that gives meaning to the lives of citizens and a basis for political order (Eric Voegelin). The widespread usage of quasi-religious rituals and cults by secularist autocratic and totalitarian regimes for propaganda purposes turning them into “political religions” was analyzed by Hans Meier, who used the term as a heuristic tool. As a response to secularism many societies today see a revival of political movements driven by religious convictions. In the course of this geopolitical shift “political religions” has acquired yet another meaning. The ethical challenges this poses are outlined in the last part of the paper. What is at stake here is a reconciliation of the normative political inventions of modernity with religious traditions and moral codes as central condition for peaceful developments worldwide.

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