A new religion is rapidly gaining followers in America. As the majority of Americans become increasingly indifferent to religion in general and traditional Christianity in particular, a new form of religion is taking its place. (And no, the new religion is not football, although that is fast becoming a religion in its own right.)
The new religion is politics.
Politics has possessed a mystical aspect since the dawn of civilization. Pharaohs and emperors declared themselves to be demigods in ancient times, and were worshipped as such. The rise of Christianity tempered this phenomenon slightly: medieval kings and absolutist rulers merely declared that they derived their authority from God. Even supposedly atheistic Communist rulers imbued their state ceremonies with quasi-religious elements.
But during the era of the Enlightenment (in the eighteenth century), a conscious effort was made to decouple politics from religion. Political philosophers of the Enlightenment sought to create a system of government where human reason reigned supreme. In doing so, they sought to eliminate religion from politics entirely.
The result of their efforts was a system that consciously tried to separate church and state. In America, the Founding Fathers declared that there would be no state religion. In France, laughable attempts were made to declare "reason" a goddess and to destroy religion altogether.
In practice, these efforts largely removed the element of religion inherent in politics since its inception. Politics and religion retreated into separate spheres.
Now, politics and religion are becoming intertwined once again – but not in the same form as in ancient and medieval times. In modern times, politics has become a religion in its own right. Many people are turning to politics for their spiritual fulfillment.
In our increasingly secular society, politics has now become a fight between good and evil, between the correct, orthodox doctrine posed by one political party and the false, heretical doctrine propounded by the other, “enemy” political party. Or it takes the form of a mystery religion, suspicious of both traditional political ideologies, and demanding the creation of a new political creed.
The great sacrament of politics is the election cycle, in which men and women sacrifice time, money, and effort to elect their favored politicians, often in the hope of receiving a share in that power.
The hierarchs of that religion, namely journalists, staffers, lobbyists and pundits, are its priests, preaching the virtues of their favored party and the vices of their opponents with missionary fervor. Its bishops are representatives and senators, blessing the common people with their presence and favors. And its pope is the president, whom people are trained to see as a messiah, capable of transforming the economy and public policy at will.
The mystic belief of politics, that all the world’s problems would be solved if a particular political ideology were adopted by all, pervades modern culture.
Human beings need some form of religion in their lives. When traditional religion is discarded, another form of religion will take its place. Politics is rapidly fulfilling that role in America.
This post also appeared on New Agora. Check us out!