Christianity is the best cognitive science

Religion and politics

Michael Minkenberg

To person

Dr. phil., born 1959; Professor of Political Science at the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder).

Address: European University Viadrina, Faculty of Cultural Studies, Große Scharrnstr. 59, 15230 Frankfurt (Oder).
e-mail: [email protected]

Publications including: (Ed. Together with H.-D. Meyer / I. Ostner) Religion and Politics. Between universalism and particularism, Opladen 2000; Religion and Public Policy, in: Comparative Political Studies, 35 (2002) 2.

Ulrich Willems

To person

Dr. phil., born 1960; Political scientist, habilitation candidate at the University of Hamburg.

Address: Institute for Political Science, Allende-Platz 1, 20146 Hamburg.
e-mail: [email protected]

Publications including: Development, Interest and Morality. The development policy of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Opladen 1998; Religion as a private matter ?, in: M. Minkenberg / U. Willems (Ed.), Politics and Religion, Wiesbaden (i. E.).

A multitude of developments inside and outside Europe testify to the persistence of religion in politics and a changed role in relation to it. This led to a differentiation in science.

I. Religious renaissance or politicization of religion

The relationship between politics and religion has not only enjoyed increased attention in everyday discourse and in science since September 11, 2001. Because with the increasing importance of religion in the public for more than twenty years, so has interest in this relationship and its future shape. So far, however, it is unclear whether it is only a question of a politicization of religion and the previous regulations of the relationship between religion and politics, state and religious communities, or whether a genuine renaissance of the religious is not in progress. The previous study of this relationship does not provide any clear information, not least because of some imbalances. On the one hand, religion in political science, beyond the classic fields of election and party research and research on the welfare state, is given at best marginal attention. [1] On the other hand, there is a one-sided focus on spectacular manifestations such as fundamentalism. So far, the field has largely been left to the sociologists of religion and state church lawyers. A more fundamental and at the same time comprehensive examination of the relationship between politics and religion in modern times is still pending.


A multitude of very different developments point to the persistence of religion in politics and a changed role in relation to politics. This not only includes the formation and mobilization of fundamentalist movements in almost all religious traditions in both modern western and so-called emerging or developing countries. [2] The number of violent conflicts in which the religious component plays at least an essential role, as well as religiously motivated civil wars (for example on the Indian subcontinent and in the Balkans as well as in individual African states, not to mention Northern Ireland) is increasing. [3] Another element is the phenomena described by José Casanova as the "deprivatisation of religion" of increased public engagement by churches and religious organizations in politics and the associated politicization of the religious in Latin America, the USA and Europe. [4] In addition, both Christianity and Islam recorded significant growth, especially in the countries of the so-called Third World. In Christianity, this growth is also accompanied by a clear change in religious practice and political orientations. For example, the Catholic Christianity there is characterized by more hierarchical internal church structures and significantly more conservative attitudes to socio-moral issues. [5]


Even in Europe, where the political influence of organized religion has clearly declined again since the upswing in the post-war period, conflicts at the interface between religion and politics are increasing as a result of the pluralization of the religious map. The diverse manifestations of this pluralization include the immigration of non-Christian, especially Muslim minorities, the increased number of Christian migrants who have different religious orientations than in European Christianity, the growing number of non-denominationalists, the formation of new religious movements and sects, and last but not least the European unification process. As a result, the previous models of institutional regulation of the relationship between religion and politics come under pressure to justify themselves, because these regulations are due to historical compromises between the Christian denominations and between them and the state and are no longer able to take account of the new religious and ideological plurality. [6]

These developments in different parts of the world are accelerated and interlinked by processes of globalization. [7] The further weakening of state institutions and national identities creates an ideological vacuum, especially in third world countries, in which religious traditions can advance to the core of cultural identities, transnational projections of unity and loyalties. [8] The globally operating media make the activities of religious actors as well as the reactions of states and societies observable worldwide and can thus lead to learning and imitation effects. The new communication technologies have also significantly improved the ability of religious actors to mobilize and act, as the example of the Christian right in the USA shows. Ultimately, religious actors are increasingly networking transnationally and are increasingly operating on an international level.

This changed reality is reflected in differentiations in the scientific discourse on politics and religion. In the following, four central areas of the current discussion will be singled out: the debate about the secularization paradigm, the discussion of the relationship between democracy and religion, the problematization of the state-church relationship and the exploration of the connections between globalization processes and current religious-fundamentalist movements.