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Secular religion is the ideas, theories or philosophies that involve no spiritual component yet possess qualities similar to those of a religion. Such qualities may include elements such as dogma, a system of indoctrination, the prescription of an absolute code of conduct, an ideologically tailored creation story and end-times narrative, designated enemies, and unquestioning devotion to a higher authority. The secular religion operates in a secular society by filling a role which would be satisfied by a church or another religious authority.
Communism and Nazism
In 1936 a Protestant priest referred explicitly to Communism as a new secular religion. A couple of years later, on the eve of World War II, F. A. Voigt characterised both Marxism and National Socialism as secular religions, akin at a fundamental level in their authoritarianism and messianic beliefs - as well as in their eschatological view of human History. Both, he considered, were waging religious war against the liberal enquiring mind of the European heritage.
After the war, the social philosopher Raymond Aron would expand on the exploration of communism in terms of a secular religion; while A. J. P. Taylor for example would characterise it as "a great secular religion....the Communist Manifesto must be counted as a holy book in the same class as the Bible".
The term secular religion is often applied today to communal belief systems — as for example with the view of love as our postmodern secular religion. Paul Vitz applied the term to modern psychology, in as much as it fosters a cult of the self, explicitly calling “the self-theory ethic ... this secular religion”. Sport has also been considered as a new secular religion, particularly with respect to Olympism. For Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, belief in them as a new secular religion was explicit and lifelong:
- Gentile, p. 2
- F. A. Voigt, Unto Caesar (1938) p. 37
- Voigt, p. 17-20, p. 71 and p. 98-9
- Voigt, p. 203
- Aron, Raymond. The Opium of the Intellectuals. London: Secker & Warburg, 1957, pp. 265-294
- Quoted in Chris Wrigley, A. J. P. Taylor (2006) p. 229 and 202
- U. Beck/E. Beck-Gernsheim, The Normal Chaos of Love (1995) Chap. 6
- Paul C. Vitz, Psychology as Religion: The Cult of Self-worship (1994) p. 145
- H. Preuss/ K. Liese, Internationalism in the Olympic Movement (2011) p. 44
- B. W. Ritchie/D. Adair, Sport Tourism (2004) p. 1988
- A. Bergesen, The Sacred and the Subversive (1984)
- E. B. Koenker, Secular Salvations (1965)