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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

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

Panel List

Code Title Details
P046Churches and the Democratic Process in Europe and Beyond: Contemporary Challenges View Panel Details
P111Emerging Religious Oppositions to Populism: A New Kind of Public Engagement of Religious Communities in Secularised Societies? View Panel Details
P133Faith-Based Organisations in Welfare Politics in Europe and the USA View Panel Details
P278Political Secularism, Morality Policies and Religion View Panel Details
P323Religion and Illiberal Politics: Theorising an Under-Researched Relationship View Panel Details
P324Religion, Religious Minorities and Social Welfare View Panel Details
P340Secular-Religious Cleavage, Religious Voting and Party Politics View Panel Details
P414Religionisation in Israel and Eastern Europe View Panel Details
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