Political Science of Religion

By: Maciej Potz  

The paper proposes a new theoretical framework for the analysis of the relationship between religion and politics – “political science of religion.” It departs from the Church and State and Religion & Politics paradigms which are, respectively, too narrow, legalistic and normatively loaded and too methodologically eclectic to provide a thorough account of political significance of religion. Instead, it offers a coherent approach firmly embedded in political science and political theory, whereby religion is viewed analogously to other social phenomena impacting the sphere of politics. Political science of religion assumes that: Religion is a social phenomenon which motivates people to various types of social, including political behavior. Religious doctrines serve important political functions: they legitimate political power on structural/institutional, normative and personal levels; guide segments of the public in their political views and attitudes; are posited as source of public morality; and may drive political protest and dissent. Religious organizations are social entities which, insofar as they enter the political system to influence power relations, become political actors. These religious political actors should be analyzed in the same way as their secular counterparts (parties, social movements, interest groups) – in terms of their goals and strategies. It is not necessary to assess the truth status of religious beliefs; they are “real” as a subject of study insofar as they stimulate actors to adopt certain political views and express them in political behavior. Normatively evaluating religion-state relations is the job of political philosophers, not political scientists.

Politics Political Science
The Politics of Religion
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Maciej Potz

Professor, Department of Political Systems, Faculty of International and Political Studies, University of Lodz, Poland, Poland