It’s a reality with a colorful history dating back to ancient empires: Powerful leaders sometimes fall prey to grand delusions.
Some notions of rule and their relation to religion have surprisingly deep roots. David Hulme explores government systems based on emperor worship.
The idea that a political regime can confer divinity has remarkable longevity, particularly among historical dictators.
A look at Otto the Great and his role in a reemerging Roman empire, this time in Germany.
The last emperor to be crowned by a pope, Charles V viewed himself as a soldier of God—with Mars and Neptune at his side.
Described as the “restorer of religion, savior of the Church, anointed sovereign, living saint,” Napoleon was perhaps one of the most arrogant false messiahs.
The magnitude of evil perpetrated by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini and their brutal totalitarian regimes proved them utterly false messiahs.
Hitler and Mussolini exuded messianic pretensions even before they came to power, and later willingly accepted the divinity their adoring publics granted them.
In the Soviet Union, the exploitation of religious fervor helped foster one of the most murderous regimes in history.
Manipulation of religious fervor is an important element in the rise and rule of dictators such as Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and Kim Il-sung.
Historically would-be saviors who promised peace and prosperity failed to deliver. Can any human being or form of government ultimately deliver us or bring salvation?