Rainer Enskat, Martin Luther Universität Halle-Wittenberg

Politics without Religion?

If it is asked, on the occasion of a German-Chinese conference on Philosophy and Religion, whether politics is possible or necessary without religion or not, two basical conceptions offer themselves, which are especially preferable for a controversal discussion.

On the one hand, we have the conception of political virtues as it is developed in the Confucian Analects. This conception treats the political virtues of the governor as well as those of the governed, but without presupposing as conditional any belief in the existence of many gods or of a single god. It iseems to be because of these political focusses of Confucianism that the cultivation of this tradition is promoted by the actual Chinese government.

On the other hand, we have the Western conceptions of civil religion. So they were baptized (religion civile) for he first time by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his famous treatise on The Social Contract (1762). According to his own conception to have religion is the central political virtue of a citizen of a republic. Nevertheless, the earliest classical philosopher of the West who developed a conception of this type was Plato. According to his philosophy, a civil religion is a political virtue of the citizen as well as of the politician. The youngest classical philosopher of the West who has developed a conception of a civil religion is Kant. In this conception the civil religion is a political virtue primarily of the citizen of a republic. Nevertheless, Kant breaks off radically the traditions of this conception in some passages of his unpublished old-age writings: He here conceives of the civil religion as a religion without any belief in the existence of any god.

This conception of a godless political virtue of civil religion resembles, at least partly, the Confucian conception of a godless political virtues. On the other hand, Kant conceives this godless political virtue as dependent on condition which are situated totally outside the horizon of the Confucian conception. These conditions belong to a type, which the German constitutional lawyer Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde has in mind, when he argues that any state depends on conditions which he has not created himself.

In the lecture, the criteria will be discussed which are presented, at least implicitly, by the authors, so that the relative capacities of their conceptions can be tested.

page 1/1