• Giovanni Gentile

Political Theology (1920)

But the virtue of self-sacrifice, devotion to an ideal and to the law and to find ourselves anew in a reality larger than ourselves is an always has been in any form is known as religion. If we wish to think seriously and stake our life for our ideas to bring those ideas to life and fight so that they may be victorious, if we want not only to say but also to act, if we shed the cowardly habit of saying one thing and doing another, if we really want to restore life like everyone else we feel the need to secure it, then we can only have religious thoughts, and our action can only be filled with the sense of the divine. And if our action is political or part of a State, it will be better that our State be governed in a strictly and deeply religious spirit. Its religious character and seriousness, it spiritual solidarity, its consistency, the virtue that makes us say and act with determination with the world that we believe in.

The State, we assume, sees that laws are passed and that justice is imparted. Depending upon how seriously or not they are made, its laws are or are not enforced, justice is or is not meted out, and whether or not it is a State. It is not necessarily true that a law must be as rigid as a natural law as Rousseau thought it should be but even the law that man must make less rigorous once it has reached an acceptable level that must be rigid, applied and as a law limiting the arbitrary. The State teaches, administers, and runs public services. In all of its functions big and small it must be aware of facing, at every instant of its life, a duty that is not an abstract moral point, but rather a tangible historical being where every act reveres an absolute ideal.

Such religious dedication cannot be part of the State if it is not already among the people meaning the individual in whom the State finds its self-awareness and therefore its reality. If the State is not to be something utopian and abstract but the tangible way of life of a people, there can be no religious form-in its culture as taught in the schools for example-that is not rooted in the popular consciousness.