Politics and religion

In the case of politics and religion, scholars working on medieval, early modern and modern periods have significantly different issues to address, which division our conference should respect though it aims to challenge it at the same time. Before the middle of the seventeenth century, the relation between religion (or rather, religious adherences) and politics was evidently close. The Middle Ages saw the appearance of new types of ecclesiology, doubled by the integrative efforts of the Roman Curia and its pretension to engulf on the Eastern Christianity. The search for the new ecclesiology reflected immensely on the political evolution of Europe and the Christianities. The actual manifestation and the precise significance of confession as a political factor is a topic to be debated, as they all have important chronological and regional dimensions. The debate on the theory of confessionalisation (as a forerunner of modernization, as explicated in German scholarship) offers fruitful perspectives not only to the research on religious life and piety, but also to studies of politics.

Even though various adherents of secularization theories have claimed so, the spiritual cannot be regarded as having disappeared from the political realm in the modern world. Religions and churches can be incorporated into the discussion of the history of politics in modern times in a great number of ways, starting from the anthropological approach through the church–state relationship to the debate about totalitarian movements as political religions. Three distinct levels are crucial in analyzing the modern era, and panels are to be held on each: the politicization of traditional religions, the sacralization of politics and political/civil religions. Papers addressing these topics can use a wide variety of methods, as this sub-field of historical studies is a truly interdisciplinary one. Studies dealing with the politicization of traditional religions – which started in the nineteenth century and was one of the consequences of the process of secularisation – and papers addressing the sacralization/spiritualization of politics – which represented another side of the same development, and was taking place at the same time – are most welcome. The concept of political religion is used mostly in studies of fascism and communism, and is less connected to studies of religions as such, but it equally well deserves to be discussed at panels under the broad theme of politics and religion in European history. As it is a theme of great relevance when thinking about our European past (as well as present and future), the continent’s historical relation to Christianity, Islam and Judaism deserves common reflection as well. Providing historically grounded answers to general or specific questions concerning how these religions viewed and were related to each other are equally encouraged.

Possible panels within this area
Keynote speakers and invited experts

Heinz Schilling (Humboldt Universität, Berlin)
Emilio Gentile (University of Rome)