Nationalism, Democracy and Religion

  • Paul Zawadzki
Part of the The CERI series in Comparative Politics and International Studies book series (CERI)


Any attempt to clarify the relationship between nationalism and religion presents considerable difficulties. How can one do justice, in a few pages, to the historically complex overlap between the two? A quick look at the last two centuries of European history shows a number of experiences, ranging from complementarity to bitter conflict or mutual instrumentalisation.1 From West to East, the Irish, French and Polish examples reveal instances of the religious reconstruction of national movements, or, depending on the case and the period, the nationalist appropriation of religious trends. Occasionally, nationalists have made use of the religious sphere, and sometimes the religious sphere has taken advantage of nationalism. Some examples demonstrate the doctrinal tension between national particularism and religious universalism.2 Conversely, other examples show that these tensions are sociologically inherent in both national identities and religious identities. And finally, on some occasions, religion has crystallised national sentiment, and served to reinforce both cultures and vernacular languages. By smashing the unity of Christianity (already divided by the schism with Eastern Christendom), the Protestant Reformation allowed part of Europe to escape the authority of Rome, and thus to constitute itself in national churches and eventually in nations. Lutheranism was German, and spread in the wake of Germanic influence; Hussitism was Czech, while Anglicanism became the English state religion.3


National Identity Collective Identity Religious Identity Political Legitimacy Political Sphere 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches Internationales, Paris 2005

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  • Paul Zawadzki

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