State Power as a Vehicle for the Expression and Propagation of Implicit Religion

The Case Study of the ‘War on Terrorism’


  • Andrew M. Wender University of Victoria, BC



implicit religion, war on terrorism, secular ideology


The ‘war on terrorism’ spearheaded by the United States provides a telling example of how state power may act to express and propagate a specific mode of implicit religion, and, moreover, how this variety of implicit religion demonstrates the permeable boundaries between explicit religion and implicit religion. In representing a liberal, democratic capitalist, nationalist ideology that is peculiar for its conflation of evangelical Protestantism together with naturalistic principles, US state power functions as a secular social and political entity, which is simultaneously experienced as a manifestation of the sacred or holy. Employing juridical weaponry ranging from domestic legislation to global military, political, and economic measures, the ‘war on terrorism’ depicts the US as a worldly deliverer of transcendent virtue, anointed to save the world from the evil of ‘terrorism’. On a domestic level, this depiction bespeaks a form of implicit religion that parallels the idea of US civil religion made famous by Bellah, and relies on a concept of terrorism that discursively asserts the implicit sacredness of US national ideology. Meanwhile, on an international scale, the US attempt to compel worldwide conversions to liberal capitalism equates to an effort at pursuing global salvation; this, by carrying forth an implicit religious crusade in which a secular ideology functions as a site for the experiencing of transcendence.

Author Biography

Andrew M. Wender, University of Victoria, BC

Departments of History & Political Science, University of Victoria, BC, Canada


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How to Cite

Wender, A. M. (2008). State Power as a Vehicle for the Expression and Propagation of Implicit Religion: The Case Study of the ‘War on Terrorism’. Implicit Religion, 10(3), 244–261.