- differentiation between self and other, and demonization of other (in theistic religion, the differentiation usually depends on adherence to certain dogmas and social behaviors; in political religion, differentiation may be on grounds such as nationality, social attitudes, or membership in “enemy” political parties, instead)
- a transcendent leadership, either with messianic tendencies, often a charismatic figurehead;
- strong, hierarchical organizational structures
- the control of education, in order to ensure the security, continuation and the veneration of the existing system.
- a coherent belief system for imposing symbolic meaning on the external world, with an emphasis on security through faith in the system;
- an intolerance of other ideologies of the same type
- a degree of utopianism
- the belief that the ideology is in some way natural or obvious, so that (at least for certain groups of people) those who reject it are in some way “blind”
- a genuine desire on the part of individuals to convert others to the cause
- a willingness to place ends over means – in particular, a willingness to use violence and fraud
- fatalism – a belief that the ideology will inevitably triumph in the end
Not all of these aspects are present in any one political religion; this is only a list of some common aspects. Political religions compete with existing religions and try, if possible, to replace or eradicate them. Loyalty to other entities, such as a church or a deity is often viewed as interfering with loyalty to the political religion. The authority of potential religious leaders also presents a threat to the authority of the political religion. As a result, some or all religious sects are either suppressed or banned. An existing sect may be converted into a state religion, but dogma and personnel may be modified to suit the needs of the party or state. Where there is suppression of religious institutions and beliefs, this might be explicitly accompanied by atheistic doctrine as in state atheism. The North Korean government has promulgated Juche as a political alternative to traditional religion. The doctrine advocates a strong nationalist propaganda basis and is fundamentally opposed to Christianity and Buddhism, the two largest religions on the Korean peninsula. Juche theoreticians have, however, incorporated religious ideas into the state ideology. According to government figures, Juche is the largest political religion in North Korea. Since its foundation in 1982, Hezbollah, the Shi’a Islamist political party and a paramilitary group has produced a fierce propaganda in order to maintain the Lebanese population under a permanent state of terror. The terrorist organization that now has Members in the Parliament and the government uses Nazi and Soviet-inspired techniques such as the cult of personality, cult of martyrdom, antisemitism and conspirationnism. Latest example of terror is dated from October 2017 when angry citizens criticized Hezbollah’s leader and political allies before being forced into apologizing publicly in a humiliating way.
political religion: Absolute loyalty
Loyalty to the state or political party and acceptance of the government/party ideology are paramount. Dissenters may be expelled, ostracized, discriminated against, imprisoned, “re-educated”, or killed. Loyalty oaths or membership in a dominant (or sole) political party may be required for employment, government services, or simply as routine. Criticism of the government may be a serious crime. Enforcements range from ostracism by one’s neighbors to execution. In a fundamental political religion, you are either with the system or against it.
political religion: Cult of personality: Cult of personality
A political religion often elevates its leaders to near-godlike status. Displays of leaders in the form of posters or statues may be mandated in public areas and even private homes. Children may be required to learn the state’s version of the leaders’ biographies in school.
political religion: Myths of origin
Political religions often rely on a myth of origin that may have some historical basis but are usually idealized and sacralized. Current leaders may be venerated as descendants of the original fathers. There may also be holy places or shrines that relate to the myth of origin. 1, 2, 3 4
A state religion (also called an established religion or official religion) is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state. A state with an official religion, while not secular, is not necessarily a theocracy, a country whose rulers have both secular and spiritual authority. State religions are official or government-sanctioned establishments of a religion, but the state does not need be under the control of the religion (as in a theocracy) nor is the state-sanctioned religion necessarily under the control of the state. Official religions have been known throughout human history in almost all types of cultures, reaching into the Ancient Near East and prehistory. The relation of a religious cult and the state was discussed by Varro, under the term of theologia civilis (“civic theology”). The first state-sponsored Christian church was the Armenian Apostolic Church, established in 301 AD. In Christianity, as the term church is typically applied to a Christian place of worship or organisations incorporating such ones, the term state church is associated with Christianity as sanctioned by the government, historically the state church of the Roman Empire in the last centuries of the Empire’s existence, and is sometimes used to denote a specific modern national branch of Christianity. Closely related to state churches are ecclesiae, which are similar but carry a more minor connotation. In the Middle East, many states with primarily Islamic population have Islam as their state religion, either as the Shiite or Sunni variety, though the degree of religious restrictions on the citizen’s everyday life varies by country. Rulers of Saudi Arabia use both secular and religious power, while Iran‘s secular presidents are supposed to follow the decisions of religious authorities since the revolution of 1979. Turkey, which also has a primarily Muslim population, became a secular country after Atatürk’s Reforms, though unlike the Russian Revolution of the same time period, it did not result in the adoption of state atheism. The degree to which an official religion is imposed upon citizens in contemporary society varies considerably; from high as in Saudi Arabia to minimal or none at all as in Denmark, England, Iceland and Greece. The degree and nature of state backing for denomination or creed designated as a state religion can vary. It can range from mere endorsement (with or without financial support) with freedom for other faiths to practice, to prohibiting any competing religious body from operating and to persecuting the followers of other sects. In Europe, competition between Catholic and Protestant denominations for state sponsorship in the 16th century evolved the principle cuius regio eius religio (“states follow the religion of the ruler”) embodied in the text of the treaty that marked the Peace of Augsburg, 1555. In England, Henry VIII broke with Rome in 1534, being declared the “Supreme Head of the Church of England“, the official religion of England continued to be “Catholicism without the Pope” until after his death in 1547, while in Scotland the Church of Scotland opposed the religion of the ruler. In some cases, an administrative region may sponsor and fund a set of religious denominations; such is the case in Alsace-Moselle in France under its local law, following the pre-1905 French concordatry legal system and patterns in Germany. In some communist states, notably in North Korea and Cuba, the state sponsors religious organizations, and activities outside those state-sponsored religious organizations are met with various degrees of official disapproval. In these cases, state religions are widely seen as efforts by the state to prevent alternate sources of authority. There is also a difference between a “state church” and the broader term of “state religion”. A “state church” is a state religion created by a state for use exclusively by that state. An example of a “state religion” that is not also a “state church” is Roman Catholicism in Costa Rica, which was accepted as the state religion in the 1949 Constitution, despite the lack of a national church. In the case of a “state church”, the state has absolute control over the church, but in the case of a “state religion”, the church is ruled by an exterior body; in the case of Catholicism, the Vatican has control over the church. In either case, the official state religion has some influence over the ruling of the state. As of 2012, there are only five state churches left, as most countries that once featured state churches have separated the church from their government. The following religions have been established as state religions in some countries such as those with a version of Christianity, Islam or Buddhism. 1
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