BOOK REVIEWS: POLITICAL THEORY
Politics as Religion
a1 McGill University
Religion. By Emilio Gentile. Translated by George
Staunton. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. 194p. $39.50.
The projected secularization of the world—or the suggestion that
religion should have as little as possible to do with economic, social,
and political life in industrial societies—is not happening. First,
the traditional faiths have shown a surprising vitality in reclaiming
their respective space in the secular, public square. It is evident that
faith movements cannot always be caged in pejorative stereotypes;
secularization is not a linear process, and religious beliefs continue to
shape ordinary people's lives and to have a say in public affairs.
The increasing politicization of religion in many parts of the world has
brought with it the challenge to engage Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
as essential allies in the modern struggle for human rights, social
justice, and enlightened thought. Second, the importance of religion in
modern democracy and mass politics can be gleaned in an ex
adverso kind of way: Even when rejecting the mission of religion to
give meaning to human existence, many politicians have found it useful to
appropriate for themselves the trappings of religious symbols and rituals.
This sacralization of politics has sought to interpret and to define human
existence by subordinating the destiny of individuals and the collectivity
to a supreme entity, liberal democracy, or totalitarianism.