Religion and Politics: Challenges to the Social Scientific Study of Religion


  • Siniša Zrinščak Faculty of Law, University of Zagreb



Based on a literature review, this paper addresses how political science and sociology incorporate religion in their theories and research. A particular focus is placed on how both sciences theorise the relationship between religion and politics. The paper argues that political science and sociology struggle with incorporating religion into their main theories, which reflect different views on religion’s importance and its overall role in contemporary societies. Some key concepts, such as ‘politicisation’ and ‘religionisation’, are also discussed. A brief overview of the scholarship of religion in Central and Eastern Europe since the fall of communism is used as an example of how the radically changed social and political context was reflected in the scholarship. The paper’s final section summarises current debates on religion, populism and culture in political science and sociology. It shows how a new way of communicating political messages produces complex and contradictory references to religion. While this is captured in the literature by interpreting religion as a cultural identity marker, the argument is that this should not be dissociated from the role of secular actors in imposing cultural features on some religions or political features on others.