Civil Religion from Antiquity to the Enlightenment
Civil religion – the belief that public religion could be subsumed within the administration of the state – has long been recognised by intellectual historians of the early modern period as a feature of republican discourse, most often conceived of as an inheritance from ancient Rome. This recognition, however, has allowed
civil religion to remain underexplored as an intellectual tradition on its own terms. A language and concept seeking to reconcile church and state, it draws on numerous traditions, including the legacy of the Reformation and notions of Royal Supremacy, Freethought, Gallicanism, and more. Liberated from the confines of being a subsidiary to republicanism, a rich and complex discourse emerges, through which efforts were made to develop a persuasive vision for a religion conducive to a tolerant and harmonious citizen body. In order to achieve a comprehensive understanding of civil religion and its significance, an open dialogue between religious and intellectual historians is of fundamental importance, a dialogue which has previously been limited by the intense focus of scholars examining civil religion in its political dimension to the exclusion of religion. Moreover, a broad chronological overview of civil religion’s development from Antiquity to Enlightenment is required, beyond its origins in Republican Rome and episodic manifestations in the
early modern period, further necessitating the interaction of scholars usually divided by chronological boundaries.
The aim of this conference is to facilitate these urgently needed discussions, bringing together religious and intellectual historians, classicists and early modernists, historians of scholarship and historians of political thought. The resultant rehabilitation of civil religion from its status as a handmaid of republicanism will not
only promote methodological innovation through its interdisciplinary emphasis, but will interrogate dominant traditions in these disciplines regarding the relationship between church and state, and that between religion and the Enlightenment.