Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- Statist religion, as that term is used here, is not at all the same thing as state religion. A state religion is merely an official national religion, such as the Church of England. A different but related topic is civil religion.
A statist religion is a formally structured, state-sponsored mentality and set of beliefs that are meant to be upheld unquestioningly by those subject to them. While not necessarily promoting a belief in the supernatural, the symbolism and ceremonial behaviours present in statist religions often reflect or are fashioned after those present in traditional religious practice.
Statist religions have historically been employed almost exclusively by totalitarian governments. However, religion, ceremony, patriotism, and nationalism do co-mingle in many countries; see civil religion.
Aspects of statist religions
Not all of these aspects are present in any one statist religion; this is only a list of some common aspects.
Suppression of religious beliefs
Loyalty to other entities, such as a church or a deity are often seen to interfere with loyalty to the state. The authority of potential religious leaders also presents a threat to the authority of the government. As a result, some or all religious sects are either suppressed or banned. An existing sect may be converted into a state religion, but dogma and personnel may be modified to suit the needs of the state. Enforced atheism is a common feature.
Loyalty to the state and acceptance of the government's ideology is paramount. Dissenters may be discriminated against, imprisioned, "re-educated", or killed. Loyalty oaths or membership in a dominant (or sole) political party may be required for employment, government services, or out of course. Criticism of the government may be a serious crime. Enforcements range from ostrascism from one's neighbors to complete humiliation by the government.
The state often helps maintain its power base by instilling fear of some kind in the population. For example, North Korea holds frequent air raid drills to emphasize the possibility of imminent invasion. In China, the government emphasizes the danger of instability. The Bolsheviks (Russian communist) attempted to instill fear of a return of the Czar by the Whites during the Russian Civil War. In Germany, the Reichstag fire, blamed on Communist terrorism, provided an opportunity for Adolf Hitler to declare a state of emergency.
Domestic displays of military power may be frequent. Citizens may obey harsh state mandates out of fear of being reported by fellow citizens or caught by the secret police.
A common tactic of statist religions is to pin blame for the nation's problems on a particular entity or group. North Korea blames its economic problems on the United States. In Nazi Germany, Jews and other minority groups were the target.
Cult of personality
Main article: Cult of personality
A statist religion often elevates its leaders to near-godlike status. Displays of leaders in the form of posters or statues may be mandated in public areas and even private homes. Children may be required to learn the state's version of the leaders' biographies in school.
Mandatory political gatherings may supplement or replace religious ceremonies to help reinforce loyalty. The state usually controls the mass media for similar reasons, filling it with propaganda. Certain leisure or cultural activities may also be mandated to reinforce some aspect of loyalty or the state ideology.
The United States has an extremely mild form of a statist religion. In the United States, patriotism (or alternatively nationalism) is a driving influence behind public discourse. Anyone who seems to dislike America or disagree with the system of government of the United States (such as a foreign-born citizen who refuses to sing the national anthem at an athletic event) faces resentment from his colleagues.
This type of discrimination is neither systemized nor legitimized by the government, but is present. During the Cold War, fear of communism led the government of the United States to institute loyalty oaths and caused public trials of suspected "communists" by such demagogues as Senator Joseph McCarthy. Eventually public opinion turned against such actions and the fall of the perceived communist threat has resulted in a relaxation of patriotic zeal. However, the September 11th, 2001 attacks by the Al-qaeda terrorist network revived a weak ghost of this type of patriotic chauvinism, casting doubt over the ability of foreign immigrants to blend into their new homeland.
The North Korean government has promulgated Juche as a patriotic alternative to traditional religion. It advocates a strong Marxist propaganda basis, and is fundamentally opposed to Christianity and Buddhism, the two largest religions in the Korean peninsula. According to government figures, it is the largest religion in North Korea, and all the public practice of all other religions is illegal.
Soviet Union (historical)
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