Political religion: the influence of ideological and identity orientation

Donald K. Gates, Peter Steane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The diversity of identities in the many social groups in modern multi‐cultural communities challenges decision and policymakers endeavouring to reconcile their own values and ideologies with those of the people their decisions and policies affect. This paper defines political religion and places its theoretical base amongst general theories of religion, especially the Durkheimian concept of religion as ‘belonging’ and Weber’s idea that religion has meaning. Spirituality is identity‐forming and may be linked to religion as meaning and, as such, is distinct from identity as more traditionally linked with religion as belonging. Even though spirituality’s links with religion, in general, can be rather tenuous, spirituality has special meaning in traditional, or church, religions as well as in non‐church or civil religions. Political religion, a non‐church religion, has a spirituality aligned to combat and struggle. Its adherents frequently resort to violence to achieve their goals. This generates fear in the communities they target. Throughout history individual cases of political religions have interested researchers because of their uniqueness or the theoretical base they engender. In this paper, cases of political religion are examined, including National Socialism, from early history to the modern era. An aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9 September 2001 has seen the re‐emergence of political religion with random terrorist attacks generating fear, loss of life and mass destruction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-325
Number of pages23
JournalTotalitarian movements and religious regimes
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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