It is an important topic which has greatly concerned me for forty years. I remember a guest lecture at the University of Tulsa by political scientist Guenter Lewy on the topic from around 1973 which spurred on this interest.
This was followed up several years later by a series of world-class lectures by Gerhart Niemeyer, Angelo Codevilla, and Frederick Wilhelmsen when I attended the Intercollegiate Studies Institute Western Summer School at Thomas Aquinas College in California in 1975.
The study of Political Religions goes to the core of my ideological world view, everything that I believe concerning politics, religion, and the state. One cannot begin to understand the secular history of the world over the past two thousand years, and the impact of the Incarnation upon humanity, without seeing it though this interpretative lens.
The outstanding chronicler of Political Religions writing today is Michael Burleigh, who is following in the bold path blazed by scholars such as Eric Voegelin, Murray Rothbard, Norman Cohn, Gerhart Niemeyer, James Billington, and Henri de Lubac.
“Messianic Communism in the Protestant Reformation,” by Murray N. Rothbard is an excellent place to begin an exploration of the topic.
This Rothbard article is excerpted from a larger journal article, “Karl Marx: Communist as Religious Eschatologist.” and from his magisterial An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, vol. 1, Economic Thought Before Adam Smith.
The classic examination of chiliastic movements in the Middle Ages and the Reformation period is Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements, while the best introductory exploration of the subject of religion and the totalitarian impulse is Eric Voegelin’s brilliant Modernity Without Restraint: The Political Religions; The New Science of Politics; and Science, Politics, and Gnosticism.9:12 am on July 15, 2013 Email Charles Burris