On political religions

Miroslav Volf puzzles out the relationship between religion, power, and violence.



Miroslav Volf puzzles out the relationship between religion, power, and violence.


Irreligious or non-religious violent regimes sometimes are accused of being kind of quasi-religious, and just because of that being violent. That’s a very interesting question, whether that’s actually the case – whether one might say that religion becomes a political religion, and in that case becomes a violent … which is how I would like to put, and so these regimes are “political religion” regimes. So they don’t take just [a] religious character, they take a character of political religion. Not of religion politically engaged, but of political religion.

And that’s what some of the great political philosophers and historians have called them – Marxism, and Nazism – as kind of political religions. But this is an echo of the close proximity of religion to politics. This is an echo of the fusion of a unity of religion and politics, which I believe that all great religions actually are opposed to. I think that world religions are cultural systems distinct from politics and therefore they are, by their very natures, not political religions. When they are become political religions, they alienate themselves from their own true character.

I would like to make that claim for world religions in general, but I can certainly make that claim for Christianity. Christianity become political has lost its character as Christian religion. Therefore also, I think regimes that are described as religious and therefore violent, it is a misnomer, it’s a misuse of the term religious and hence I think a mistake.