Secular religion

A secular religion a nontheistic communal belief system. Among systems that have been chararterized as secular religions are capitalism,[1] communism, Auguste Comte's Religion of Humanity, and the Cult of Reason that developed after the French Revolution.

Communism as a secular religion

In 1936 a Protestant priest referred explicitly to communism as a new secular religion.[2] A couple of years later, on the eve of World War II, F. A. Voigt characterised both Marxism and National Socialism as secular religions, akin at a fundamental level in their authoritarianism and messianic beliefs[3] – as well as in their eschatological view of human History.[4] Both, he considered, were waging religious war against the liberal enquiring mind of the European heritage.[5]

After the war, the social philosopher Raymond Aron would expand on the exploration of communism in terms of a secular religion;[6] while A. J. P. Taylor, for example, would characterise it as "a great secular religion....the Communist Manifesto must be counted as a holy book in the same class as the Bible".[7]

Contemporary characterizations

The term secular religion is often applied today to communal belief systems – as, for example, with the view of love as our postmodern secular religion.[8] Paul Vitz applied the term to modern psychology, in as much as it fosters a cult of the self, explicitly calling "the self-theory ethic ... this secular religion".[9] Sport has also been considered as a new secular religion, particularly with respect to Olympism.[10] For Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, belief in them as a new secular religion was explicit and lifelong.[11]

See also


  1. Kojin Karatani, Transcritique: On Kant and Marx (MIT Press: 2003), p. 212
  2. Gentile, p. 2
  3. F. A. Voigt, Unto Caesar (1938) p. 37
  4. Voigt, pp. 17–20, p. 71 and pp. 98–9
  5. Voigt, p. 203
  6. Aron, Raymond. The Opium of the Intellectuals. London: Secker & Warburg, 1957, pp. 265–294
  7. Quoted in Chris Wrigley, A. J. P. Taylor (2006) pp. 229 and 202
  8. U. Beck/E. Beck-Gernsheim, The Normal Chaos of Love (1995) Chap. 6
  9. Paul C. Vitz, Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-worship (1994) p. 145
  10. H. Preuss/ K. Liese, Internationalism in the Olympic Movement (2011) p. 44
  11. B. W. Ritchie/D. Adair, Sport Tourism (2004) p. 1988

Further reading

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