Hegel and the Consecrated States

In Angelica Nuzzo (ed.), Hegel on Religion and Politics. State University of New York Press. pp. 19 (2012)
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Edmund Burke characterizes the state as consecrated, or sacred. There is a sense in which Hegel, too, consecrates the state: Hegel says the state is based on religion and that to preserve the state, religion “must be carried into it, in buckets and bushels.” This paper discusses the sense in which Hegel’s state is consecrated by juxtaposing his views with Burke’s. Both Burke and Hegel reject the theory of the divine right of kings, while recognizing religion’s ability to connect people to a totality transcending their particular lives. But the similarities nearly end there. Burke sees religion as a tie that binds people and helps create an ethical community, at least in England; for Hegel religion does not have that function in a modern state. Where Burke thinks commitment to religion is a stabilizing influence, Hegel worries that religion can lead to fanaticism and destroy a state. Consequently, where Burke supports an establishment of religion, Hegel thinks church and state must remain separate. Both Burke and Hegel think the state must tolerate the free exercise of different religions, but Burke is unwilling for the state to tolerate atheists, who he regards as outlaws of the human race. But as Hegel sees the function of religion in a modern state as providing an answer to the existential question of how one’s existence has meaning given that it is inevitably extinguished, and if philosophy can also provide an answer to that question, Hegel’s consecrated state could be a home for atheists. The paper draws on, among other works, Hegel’s Rechtsphilosophie, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of History, early theological writings, and for Hegel’s views on state-sponsored religious education, the Nürnberg School Addresses and letters to Niethammer.



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Mark Tunick
Florida Atlantic University

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Lectures on the philosophy of religion.Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel - 1984 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Peter Crafts Hodgson.
Hegel and the Philosophy of Right.Dudley Knowles - 2003 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 65 (1):153-154.
Hegel's Philosophy of Freedom.Paul Franco - 1999 - Yale University Press.

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