Cicero: The Inventor of Religion

"It was the genius of Cicero to discern the forces of disintegration as well as the necessity of protecting the truth through language symbols, through a 'word' that incarnates the truth of divine presence in reality. In the pursuit of this problem, Cicero developed the older Latin term religio into the symbol that comprehends protectively both the truth of existence and its expression through cultic observance and doctrine...

"The awareness that religion is not an analytical concept of anything but a topical response to certain problems in the Roman subsection of an ecumenic-imperial society is practically lost... As a matter of fact, the Stoics could not turn to religion because religions did not yet exist..." -- Eric Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, pp. 92-93


  1. Gene, I am not sure that I understand what is being said here, because it's conclusion seems odd. Voegelin seems to be stating that religions did not exist because there weren't any symbols (or simply a symbol) to associate with them. But it seems as though we can talk about something existing without having a definite name or symbol for its existence - and in fact, this seems like a recurring theme in Voegelin, who often shirks precise, analytical formulations of what he says in order to convey his message!

  2. The idea is that there was not a separate sphere of human life called "religion": it was simply an integrated part of how a people lived. For instance, Greek drama was not religion or art or government: it involved all of these things that we have later separated into different bins.

  3. Ahh! Yes, I see now. Thanks. Okay, well that is interesting in light of how we see religion today: compartmentalized, and 'private'. I have yet to read Voegelin's work on the Ecumenical Age.


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