What is the proper role of religion in public life? To what extent should religious belief shape our political discourse? How should religious leaders approach politics? How should political leaders approach religion? These questions have only gained salience in recent history.  Religion and politics seem deeply intertwined in our current political moment, with religion defining the contours of many political and social debates in the U.S. today. 

This two-week course will introduce students to the perennial and contemporary political, philosophical, and moral issues that bear on the topic of religion and politics. For the first week, students will consider the Biblical stories as philosophical texts, which address important questions for moral and political life. They will assess the impact and influence of Biblical ideas, and reflect on the relevance of those insights to our own lives and world today.

The second week will examine the ways in which religion and politics intersect in a liberal democracy. Among the questions students will ask are: What is the role of religion in a liberal democracy? How has the American experience been exceptional, and is the decline in religious affiliation, especially among younger generations, a cause for concern? What are the limits of religious tolerance and liberty in a diverse society?

Image: Thomas Cole, Cross at Sunset, 1848


Laurence Cooper

Laurence Cooper is Professor of Political Science at Carleton College. Most of his research has addressed the question of human flourishing—what it is, how we can know what it is, what it requires from education and politics, and the risks that arise from misunderstanding it.

Bryan Garsten

Bryan Garsten is Professor of Political Science at Yale University. He writes on questions about political rhetoric and deliberation, the meaning of representative government, the relationship of politics and religion, and the place of emotions in political life.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session

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