ECPR General Conference
University of Wrocław, Wrocław
4 - 7 September 2019

Religion and Politics in a Secular Age: Patterns, Dynamics and Consequences

Policy Analysis
Political Parties
Political Sociology
Section Number
Section Chair
Eva-Maria Euchner
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München – LMU
Section Co-Chair
Marko Vekovic
Faculty of Political Science, University of Belgrade

Since decades Europe has been facing serious secularization trends, coming along with a decreasing number of people attending religious services, fewer church members as well as with a stronger disentangling between state and church (Berger 1967; Casanova 1994). Today most scholars agree that this process does not result in a “demise” of religion because a minority of religious actors will remain as well as a strong cultural heritage (Davie 2006). Some scholars, such as Habermas (2008), even argue that we are in a “post-secular age” as religion gains more and more visibility and importance in European politics, not least due to emergence of conflictive public problems such as the large number of Muslim immigrants, the complex relationship with Turkey or the discriminatory employment rules of Christian Churches and their welfare organizations (e.g., Joppke 2015; Liedhegener and Pickel, eds. 2016; Haynes 1998; Davie 2000, 2006).

Fox's (2015) concept of political secularism offers a first theoretical fundament for understanding the rise of religion in politics today. He argues (2015: 33) that “politics of religion can be seen (…) as a struggle between religious and secular ideologies.” Secular actors advocate that government must at least remain neutral on the issue of religion, whereas religious actors aim to shape political decision along religious principles. This competition between secular and religious actors increases the salience of religious questions not only in Europe but around the world. The idea is highly promising as it offers a new analytical perspective on how to conceptualize religion and politics in modern times. Moreover, the idea is applicable in many sub-disciplines of political science research (e.g., legislative studies, international relations, peace studies, public policy analysis, political sociology, etc.). Despite offering such a promising starting point for many sub-disciplines, the framework still misses a more nuanced macro-, meso- and micro-foundation; recently a couple of researchers have further advanced the idea, but we still miss more work analyzing patterns and dynamics across a larger set of arenas, countries or policy questions (see Kortmann 2018; Ozzano and Maritato 2018; Euchner forthcoming). Moreover, there is large space for alternative concepts, frameworks and empirical investigations enhancing our understanding of the unexpected rise of religion in politics today, its pattern, dynamics and consequences within Europe as well as beyond.

This Section aims to attract scholars from various sub-disciplines of political science research, including, for instance, comparative politics, legislative studies, public policy analysis, international relations, political theory or public administration. We are sure that a collection of panels dealing with the rise of religion in politics from different disciplinary angles will substantially advance the current state of the art.
Accordingly, interesting research topics might include, but are not limited to the following topics:
• Legislative behavior and religion in European parliaments
• Religious voting over time and across countries
• Reform processes of the church-state relationships in Europe as well as beyond
• Public administrations, public bureaucrats and religious values
• Influence of religion on national and international policy-making processes
• The role of religion in international relations
• Religious actors, and particularly religious parties and transnational religious movements
• The principal of religious freedom in political theory

Topics for Panel and Paper proposals:
(1) The rise of a Christian right in Europe
(2) The role of religious welfare organizations in bridging the religious and secular sphere: Providers of public welfare services and/or moral values?
(3) Religion as strategic resource of political parties
(4) Religion in the debate on LGBT Rights in Europe
(5) Religion and public institutions
(6) Religion, entrepreneurship and politics
(7) Orthodox Christianity and politics in XXI century
(8) Religion and the government-opposition game in secular times

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