My interest in teaching a course on Political Theology came from my research on Simone Weil. I wanted to understand how the area of political theology could help me interpret Weil’s oeuvre, which often focuses on the intersection of politics and religion. To that end I decided to teach a course in the Fall of 2011 that would explore the historic development of the concept “political theology.” The course would consider how the western tradition has “thought” the intersection of politics/theology.
Writing in May, 1670, the German theologian Jacob Thomasius fulminated against a recent, anonymously published book. It is, he claimed, “a godless document” that should be immediately banned in all countries. His Dutch colleague, Regnier Mansveld, a professor at the University of Utrecht, insisted that the new publication was harmful to all religions and “ought to be buried forever in an eternal oblivion.” Willem van Blijenburgh, a philosophically inclined Dutch merchant, wrote that “this atheistic book is full of abominations … which every reasonable person should find abhorrent.” One disturbed critic went so far as to call it “a book forged in hell”, written by the devil himself.