By Gregorio Bettiza
This chapter starts by questioning the common perspective across multiple traditions that equate and reduce religion to ideology. It draws on scholarship in religious studies to suggest that religion should be approached as its own category of analysis and practice distinct from that of ideology. While claiming that we should not treat religion as ideology, the chapter nonetheless argues that religion can become ideological in the context of and in reaction to our modern secularized world. The chapter puts forward the concept of ‘ideological religion’ to capture the modern relationship between religion and ideology. It then proposes a tripartite categorization of ideological religion as political theology, religious ideology, and religious identitarianism. It argues and empirically illustrates how these manifestations of ideological religion lie on a continuum: from ideological expressions that have a deeper and thicker connection to religious structures and theologies, to those that have a weaker and thinner connection instead. Lastly, the chapter identifies three areas which make ideological religion a distinct phenomenon in world politics: its uniquely multivocal character; its ability to escalate and exacerbate divisions and conflicts; and its entanglement with some of the most powerful ideological forces contesting the current international order.
London: Routledge, 2022