Volume 3, 2019
Bulent Diken, Carsten Bagge Laustsen
Arendt’s Political Theology—From Political Religion to Profanation
The article elaborates on Arendt’s take on the religious and the political and on how they interact and merge in modernity, especially in totalitarianism. We start with framing the three different understandings of religion in Arendt: first, a classic understanding of religion, which is foreign to the logic of the political; second, a secularized political religion; and third, a weak messianism. Both the classic understanding of religion and the political religion deny human freedom in Arendt’s sense. Her transcendent alternative to them both is the notion of the democratic political community: the Republic. Then we turn to Arendt’s political theology, illuminating why interrogating Nazism is central to examine the relationship between politics and religion in modernity. This is followed by a discussion of Nazism as a type of political religion. We focus here on totalitarianism, both as an idea and actual institution. We conclude with an assessment of the role of profanation in Arendt’s work and its significance vis-à-vis the contemporary ‘return of religion’ as well as totalitarian tendencies which call for new forms of voluntary servitude.