The Roles of Religion in National Legitimation: Judaism and Zionism's Elusive Quest for Legitimacy

Uriel Abulof*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Why and how do nations turn to religion to justify claims for statehood? This article addresses this question in both theory and practice, showing that religion plays multiple legitimating roles that shift dynamically according to the success they yield for national movements. I posit four legitimating models: (1) nationalism instead of religion ("secular nationalism"), (2) nationalism as a religion ("civil religion"), (3) religion as a resource for nationalism ("auxiliary religion"), and (4) religion as a source of nationalism ("chosen people"). Empirically, I analyze the roles of religion in Zionist efforts to legitimate a Jewish state in Palestine. I argue that Zionism has responded to persistent delegitimation by expanding the role of religion in its political legitimation. The right of self-determination, which stands at the core of the "secular Zionism" legitimation, has given way to leveraging Judaism, which in turn has been eclipsed by constructing a Zionist civil religion and a "chosen people" justification.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)515-533
Number of pages19
JournalJournal for the Scientific Study of Religion
Volume53
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Auxiliary religion
  • Civil religion
  • Nationalism
  • Political legitimacy
  • Religion
  • Zionism

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