2024: Politik und Religion

Viola Raheb

Viola Raheb

Consultant for communication and projects at the PRO ORIENTE Foundation, Vienna

Politics and religion share a long history and are in a relationship of tension and dependency. There has always been mutual influence. However, the relationship between politics and religion is not only observed empirically, but is also the subject of many theoretical considerations. In A Secular Age, Charles Taylor describes the philosophical and moral terrain of the modern world as a collision between three major camps: (1) secular or “exclusive humanists”, (2) postmodern or “neo-Nietzschean” anti-humanists and (3) “devotees of transcendence”. According to Taylor, two parties always “ally themselves against the third on an important issue”. Exclusive humanists – who continue the Enlightenment project of advancing a politics and ethics in a completely disenchanted or immanent framework – are united with the neo-Nietzscheans in their opposition to religious ways of thinking and in their aim to rid society of “the illusion of a good beyond life” and to relegate ideas of transcendence “to the status of a past illusion”. However, it turns out that the “camp of non-believers” is deeply divided – over the nature of humanism and, even more radically, over its value”.  The anti-humanists (who, in Taylor’s view, have exerted a greater influence on history and culture over the past century than many realise) have exercised an “immanent counter-enlightenment” on liberal conceptions of human nature and rights, which they describe as oppressive forms of essentialism and masks for pure power objectives. In addition, the relationship between politics and religion is also constantly evolving and reshaping, as José Casanova’s latest research shows. They deal with globalisation and religion as well as the dynamics of transnational religion, migration and increasing ethno-religious and cultural diversity. His research on religion and globalisation has taken an ambitious comparative perspective, encompassing Catholicism, Pentecostalism and Islam. Emilio Gentile also clearly recognises the interconnectedness of politics and religion. He argues that in the last two centuries politics has often taken on the characteristics of a religion, claiming the prerogative to define the fundamental purpose and meaning of human life. Secular political entities such as the nation, the state, the race, the class and the party have become the centre of myths, rituals and commandments and have gradually become objects of faith, loyalty and worship.

As it turns out, the topic of politics and religion is not only highly topical, but also covers a wide range of areas, from security policy and state theory to socio-political issues. In the Bruno Kreisky Forum, these aspects can be discussed in talks with experts and brought closer to an interested audience.

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