RELIGION AND POLITICS overlap and intersect in complex and multiple formations in different times and locations, composing political settlements that wax and wane in their influence. Religion and politics do not belong to distinct domains of culture and power. As King observes, “examples of religious and political association are no longer automatically seen as the inappropriate grouping of two separate spheres of human cultural existence.”1 Secularism is a social construction.
The challenge to conventional European and American secularist divisions between religion and politics is now being felt in the discipline of international relations. The problem of how religion fits with world politics has become a significant topic not because it was identified as theoretically important in international relations, but because real-world events forced it back into the consciousness of international relations theorists. For at least three reasons, it has now become impossible to maintain that religion is irrelevant to international outcomes, as most conventional accounts would have it.2 First, the United States and others have had a hard time imposing their vision of secular democracy around the world. Second, there has been the advent of a U.S. foreign policy model in the George W. Bush administration that is officially secular but inspired by a kind of Christianity. Third, over the past several decades there has been a rise in religious movements and organizations with broad bases of national and transnational influence.3 These developments and others like them have led analysts to refer to a “resurgence of religion” in international relations.4 Thomas describes the resurgence as the result of “a collapse in the faith of modernizing religion …motivated by the desire … to rethink and reevaluate how religion and modernity are related.”5
There is good evidence for the resurgence.6 It is now unsustainable to claim that religion plays no significant role in international relations; it has become a critical consideration in international security, global politics, and U.S. foreign policy.7 Anson Shupe describes organized religion as a “stubbornly persistent and often integral factor in contemporary national and international politics.”8 Timothy Shah testified before the House International Relations Committee in 2004 that “the importance of the religion factor in public life is not decreasing or remaining static but is increasing in almost every part of the world.”9 Peter Berger, one of the foremost proponents of secularization theory in the 1960s, observed that, “put simply, most of the world is bubbling with religious