Tobias Mörschel (Ed.): Does Faith make Politics?

Heiko Wenzel

Tobias Mörschel (Ed.). Does Faith make Politics? [in German only: Macht Glaube Politik? Religion und Politik in Europa und Amerika.] Göt- tingen: V&R, 2006. 189 pp., 19,90 €.

Does faith pursue a policy? Whoever follows the last years of US-american policy or reflect upon Islam and its future role in Europe can hardly avoid this question. This book addresses the question in light of sociological models in the context of a transatlantic comparison.

Detlef Pollack presents basic models for describing the relationship between religion and modernity (pp. 17-48). Statistics demonstrate that the secularization model accurately describes the weakening of religion on an institutional level. Since the United States are an exception to this model and since a causal relationship between modernity and secularization cannot be established, Pollack speaks of “simultaneous processes of secularization and revitalization” (39). Other models make assumptions that cannot be verified, not the “continuity of religious need” for the economical model nor the “unconditional necessity of religion” for the model of individualization. Pollack’s model (it analyzes causes for religion) assumes that “the need for religion … depends on experiences of contingency” (43). His model accounts for aspects of the other models and describes thereby the uniqueness of the United States: 1) the social and professional insecurity is higher, 2) there is greater trust in church institutions because of the separation of state and church, 3) the existence of God, a life after death and a duality of good and evil is common sense. Pollack certainly comes closer to reality than other models. This is confirmed and supplemented by inspiring contributions of Rolf Schieder “The Relationship of Policy and Religion in the Political Culture of Germany” (pp. 115-133), of Hartmut Lehmann “A Unique Way of Europe or of the United States? Religion and Church in a Transatlantic Comparison” (pp. 134-146), of Rainer Prätorius “Religious Policy and Political Religion in the United States: What is New?” (pp. 147-164) and of Josef Braml “The Political Success Story of the Christian Right in the United States: From Fundamentalistic Sectarianism to Political Pragmatism” (pp. 165-189).

Since religion in Germany is increasingly individualistic (cf. Karl Gabriel’s contribution concerning the religious plurality on pp. 104-114) any model is even more limited than it has been in the past (cf. p. 41). As Friedrich Wilhelm Graf emphasizes (p. 49), our analytical competence is limited. Should one, therefore, rather speak of a “Renaissance of Noticing Religion” (Tobias Mörschel on p. 7)? Sometimes analytical models tell more about one’s own perception than about reality. For example, Thomas Meyer (pp. 61-83) defends basic values of liberal democracy against religious usurpation and rejects “the American democracy which is hollowed out by Christian populists” (p. 83). Anyhow, Graf recommends necessary meditation on oneself (p. 49). Additionally, it is to be seen whether Meyer’s conviction will better enable democratic nations to integrate people than the American model. This is, however, a crucial question for Germany in light of the upcoming spread of Christianity and Islam (cf. Otto Kallscheuer, pp. 84-100), in particular with regard to Muslims who do not know or do not value a European democracy.

The editor and the contributors are applauded for this inspiring and valuable collection of four articles on sociological models and five on transatlantic differences.