Religion and the "evil empire" (Ronald Reagan)

Hilary Carey*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


This paper provides an historiographical review of the rhetorical and historical sources for religious suspicion of empires and imperialism in the west. It begins with an analysis of Ronald Reagan's celebrated "evil empire" speech of March 1983, and traces its polemical roots to scriptural precedents, notably in the Book of Revelation, in which "empire" is equated with the unjust rule of Babylon. Some comparisons are made between the general use of religious ideologies to support imperial regimes in ancient and other, more modern, world empires including China and Islam. The final section considers the debate about the role of religion in supporting - or critiquing - modern, secularised empire states such as the second British Empire. The paper argues that it is not possible to understand the problematical relationship of religion and empire in modern societies without recognising the ongoing force of Christian polemic even when religious arguments have not specifically been invoked.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-192
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Religious History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008
EventConference on Enlightenment, Modernity, Secularization, Resacralization in Western Europe and East Asia - Wuhan, United Kingdom
Duration: 1 Sept 2006 → …


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