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Explaining the Political Ambivalence of Religion


This essay takes on the broad question—what explains the political pursuits of religious actors?—by exploring two powerful influences on these pursuits. The first is differentiation, or the degree of autonomy between religious actors and states in their basic authority. The second is political theology, the set of ideas that religious actors hold about political authority and justice. Through global comparisons across religions, regions, and states, it seeks to establish the effect of both influences on two political pursuits in which religion's role is hotly debated today: support for democratization and political violence, including communal violence and terrorism. It concludes with lessons learned commonly from the analysis of both pursuits.

Corresponding author
Daniel Philpott is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556 (
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