chapter  2
17 Pages

Civil religion and religious freedom in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict

WithElizabeth A. Clark

Civil religion, understood as the beliefs, symbols, and rituals associated with the public religious dimension of civic life can, at its best, create a space for religion and transcendence in public life and permit religious grounding of fundamental social commitments, encouraging the development of individual conscience, reverence, and the quest for the transcendent, which in turn enriches and strengthens the body politic. At its worst, however, civil religion is subject to abuse by authoritarian leaders and can be deeply oppressive, coopting convenient majority beliefs and discriminating against and excluding followers of minority beliefs from public life. Times of war, such as the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which heighten manifestations of civil religion through their increasing need to evoke the transcendent, also raise the stakes for the impact of civil religion on religious freedom through rising opposition to minority religions, especially pacifist ones, and challenges to state commitments to pluralism. These threats that renewed civil religion brings to religious freedom are most evident in Russia and the occupied territories of Eastern Ukraine, but Ukraine also is facing a crossroads as to how its increased emphasis on civil religion will affect its commitments to religious freedom.