JCU Logo


COURSE NAME: "Religion and Global Politics "
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2017

INSTRUCTOR: Michael Driessen
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 10:00-11:15 AM
OFFICE HOURS: MW 3-4pm and by appointment

“Religion” is driving contemporary political events in multiple, multifaceted, and mysterious ways. This course is designed to help students to make sense of this phenomenon and to begin to understand why, and in what ways, religion influences global politics today. In order to do so, the course will address normative concerns about the proper relationship between religion and states in contemporary political societies; theoretical concerns about how various religious institutions and religion-state arrangements influence and are influenced by political processes; and empirical concerns about how, why and where individuals are religious across the globe, and in what ways their religious ideas and identities might influence their political decisions and behaviors. Throughout the course students will be introduced to a set of concepts used by scholars to understand the theory and practice of religion and politics today. They will then have an opportunity to employ and critique these concepts by researching and writing a term paper on a case of religion intersecting with international affairs today. Possibilities include, but are not limited to, the Iraq war debate; the EU vs. the Crucifix debate; the Islam and Democracy debate; and the US foreign policy debate over the engagement of the “global Muslim community.”

The course is divide

The course is divided into 7 sections. In the first section, we will define the key terms under study, including religious actors, ideas, institutions and traditions, and how these various terms relate to one another and politics. In the second section we will examine how social scientists measure the extent to which states, societies and individuals can be considered “religious” and why. In the third section we will consider recent work in political theory and philosophy over the proper relationship between religion and politics in modernity. We will discuss the meanings of Secularism, Public Religion and Multiple Modernities. Our fourth section begins with a look at the decade-long debate on the compatibility of Islam and democracy and goes on to explore how religious actors, institutions and ideas are shaping global democratic politics in general. The fifth section takes on the relationship between religion and war and violence. The sixth section explores the various ways religion acts as an inspiration for political development, reconciliation and peace. The final section examines religion as an element of foreign policy.

As with many courses in the humanities, this course is designed to not only teach you something about religion and global politics but to teach you something about how to read and write scholarly works as well. To help you to read well, you will be required to write one-page reflections on a reading or set of readings from five sections of the course. Two of these five reflections may be substituted for one-page reportages on a significant “religion and politics” news item of the week. One of the goals of this course is to stimulate you to begin looking through the global media with the open eyes of an expert on religion and global politics. As a point of departure into religion and politics news, I have created a blogroll of what I consider to be intelligent blog analyses and media resources on the links page of my website (www.michaeldriessen.com) and encourage you to begin your monitoring there. We will discuss this activity in further detail in class. We will also be hosting at least one religion and politics speaker in class and going on at least one religion and politics field trip, both of which will be announced in the first weeks of the semester.


In lieu of a final exam, you are required to write a 15-20 page religion and world politics case study research paper. The paper’s grade will be based on several stages of evaluation, including 1) a one-paragraph paper proposal (5% of the final grade, to be handed in week four), 2) a 10-minute meeting with me (2.5% of the final grade, to be scheduled for the week after the proposal), 3) a two-page outline which introduces the argument and the paper’s components and includes a bibliography (10% of the final grade, to be handed in Monday, March 31st), 4) an in-class presentation of the research (to be scheduled during Classes 25, 26 & 27), 5% of the final grade 5) The Final Paper (30% of the final grade, to be turned in the penultimate week of class), 6) Revisions to the Final Paper (7.5% of the final grade, to be turned in by the time of our final exam slot).

Finally, as a seminar class, your physical presence and oral participation is imminently expected and will be graded (on quality but not necessarily quantity, although some quantity is still better than no quality). More than 12 unexcused absences may result in a failing grade.

PL 329H: Students taking this course for honor’s credit are required to read all the “recommended” readings; write a reflection paper on at least one of them; and hand  in a 20 page final paper.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
God’s Century (2011)Toft, Philpott and ShahNorton978-0-393-06926-6  
Rethinking Religion and World Affairs Shah, Stepan and ToftOxford9780199827992  
Religion and DemocratizationMichael DriessenOxford978-0199329700  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere VanantwerpenColumbia978-0231156462  
Sacred and Secular Norris and InglehartCambridge978-1107648371  
The Ambivalence of the Sacred ApplebyRowman and Little978-0847685554  
American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us Putnam and CampbellSimon and Schuster978-1416566731  
Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World De Vries and SullivanFordham University Press978-0823226450  

Short Reflections (5)1 page each, on any section of readings. Reading reflections must be turned in by the dates indicated in the syllabus. (NB: PL329H students are required to write 6 reading reflections).30%
PaperProposal (5%); Meeting with Professor Driessen (2.5%); Outline and Bibliography (10%); Presentation (5%); Final Paper (30%); Revisions of Final Paper (7.5%).60%
ParticipationParticipation, Attendance and Presence of Mind are mandatory for this class. The goal here is to advance towards the art of asking good questions. Quality, not quantity of participation is what counts, although some quantity is better than no quality.10%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the cou
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant. Grading: A: 95-100 A-: 91-94.99 B+: 87-90.99 B: 83-86.99 B-: 79-82.99 C+: 75-78.99 C: 71-74.99 C-: 67-70.99 D+: 63-66.99 D: 59-62.99 D-: 55-58.99 F: 0-54.99


Attendance is compulsory! Students shall read assigned materials before coming to class and shall participate to class discussions. Please refer to the above notes and the university catalog for the attendance and absence policy.

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Course Outline:

1. Introducing Terms: Religious Ideas, Actors, Institutions and Traditions

2. How do we measure religion and who and what is religious today?

3. Secularism, Public Religions and Multiple Modernities

4. Clash of Civilizations, Religions and Democracy

5. War, Violence and Terrorism

6. Reconciliation, Peace-making, Inter-faith Dialogue and Development

7. Religion and Foreign Policy

8. Prophetic Religion and Other Final Thoughts

Course Calendar

1. Introducing Terms: Religious Ideas, Actors, Institutions and Traditions

August 28

Class 1

Course Introduction

August 30

Class 2




God’s Century, Chapter 1

Religion and Democratization, Introduction

September 4

Class 3




God’s Century, Chapter 2

Appleby, 2000, The Ambivalence of the Sacred, pp.s 1-8 Library Reserves



skim pp.s 9-34 of Appleby ‘s The Ambivalence of the Sacred


2. How do we measure religion and who and what is religious today?

September 6

Class 4

(Reading Reflection 1 due)



Norris and Inglehart. 2012, Sacred and Secular, ch.1 Library Reserves



Gorski and Altinordu. 2008, “After Secularization,” Annual Review of Sociology, (34) 55-85


Take a look at current levels of religiosity around the globe:





September 11

Class 5




Michael Driessen, “Religion, State and Democracy,” Politics and Religion, (3), 2010 (or Religion and Democratization, Chapter 1)


Jonathon Fox and Deborah Flores. 2012. “Religions, Constitutions, and the State: A Cross-National Study,” The Journal of Politics. 71(4) 1499-1513.


3. Secularism, Public Religion and Multiple Modernities

September 13

Class 6

(Reading Reflection 2 due)



Charles Taylor, (2010). “The Meaning of Secularism,” The Hedgehog Review


 Jurgen Habermas, (2006).  “Religion in the Public Sphere,” European Journal of Philosophy   



You can read a conversation between Taylor and Habermas on these papers here:


We will also be talking about this guy in class:


Andrew March. 2013. “Rethinking Religious Justification in Public Reasoning,” American Political Science Review 107(3)

September 18

Class 7



Ratzinger-Habermas Dialogue: pp.s 251-268 in De Vries, H. and L. Sullivan. 2006. Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World. New York: Fordham University Press. Library Reserves


Recommended :

Pope Francis. 2014. “All values are non-negotiable”  

It will be useful to be keep last summer’s “Burkini” debate in mind for the discussion of this section as well as Trump’s “Muslim” Travel Ban.


Here’s the Economist’s take on the Burkini and the Ban. And here is JCU’s own Chadiedja Buijs discussing the Burkini in the New York Times here


September 20

Class 8

(Research Proposal and Bibliography due)



God’s Century, Chapter 3

September 22

Class 9


(Make up for November 1st Holiday)


Casanova, “Rethinking Public Religions,” chapter 2 in Rethinking Religion and World Affairs


Alfred Stepan, “Religion, Democracy and the Twin Tolerations,” chapter 4 in Rethinking Religion and World Affairs



4. Clash of Civilizations, Religions and Democracies

September 25

Class 10

(Reading Reflection 3 due)



Samuel P. Huntington. 1993. “Clash of Civilizations,” Foreign Affairs Summer


Nader Hashemi. 2010. “The Multiple Histories of Secularism: Muslim Societies in Comparison,Philosophy and Social Criticism. (36)2-3; 325-338:



Olivier Roy. 2012. “The Transformation of the Arab World,” Journal of Democracy. (23) 3.


September 27

Class 11

Islam and Democracy




Robert Hefner, “Rethinking Islam and Democracy,” chapter 6 in Rethinking Religion and World Affairs


Amr Boubekeur. 2005. “Cool and Competitive: Muslim Culture in the West” & “For Ramadan, Courting the Muslim Shopper



More on Islam and Cool:

Meet the Mipsterz and the Muslim Fashionistas, plus debate about last year’s Hijabi, Noor Tagouri, posing for Playboy: Nafisa Eltahir, “Muslim Americans should reject the politics of normalcy” The Atlantic (2016)


And more on Islam and Democracy:

Religion and Democratization, chapters 5  & 6

Alfred Stepan. 2012. “Tunisia’s Transition and the Twin Tolerations,” Journal of Democracy

Danielle Lussier and Steven Fish. 2012.”Indonesia: The Benefits of Civic Engagement,” Journal of Democracy

Mark Tessler, Amaney Jamal and Michael Robbins. 2012. “New Findings on Arabs and Democracy,” Journal of Democracy 23(4) 89-103

Shadi Hamid and W. McCants, Rethinking Political Islam, Brookings (2016)

Rachid Ghannouchi, “From Political Islam to Muslim Democracy,” Foreign Affairs (2016)- it should be noted that Ghannouchi is the founder and leader of Tunisia’s Islamist inspired political party Ennahda

Khalil al-Anani, “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood faces a dilemma: Religion or Politics?” Washington Post (2016)






October 2

Class 12

Contemporary Politics of Christianity in the US

(Sign up for Meeting with Professor Driessen)




Robert Putnam and David Campbell, 2010,  American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.  Simon and Schuster. Chapter 15. Library Reserves


On Obama’s era and the politics of Christianity:

Senator Obama (2006) Speech on Faith and Politics at Call to Renewal's Building a Covenant for a New America conference

Putnam and Campbell (2012) "God and Caesar in America," Foreign Affairs.

Dionne et al. (2014) Faith in Equality. Brookings Report. 


New Trends in US Religiosity:

Pew Research Center US Religious Landscape Study (2016)

Voas and Chaves, “Is the US a counterexample to the secularization thesis?” (2015) American Journal of Sociology (hint: for these authors, the answer is no)

The Onion, “Court: Man Can’t Sue Applebees for Burning Self on Fajitas while Praying,” (2015)

A bit of background on Trump and Christian politics:

The Christian Post,Moral Therapeutic Deism: the New American Religion” (this is a review of Christian Smith’s groundbreaking work on the “nones” (2005)

Catholic Voters helped give Trump his unexpected Victory,” America (2016) and see the role of Christian votes in the electoral numbers here

Recent Rumblings from the Vatican: Spadaro and Figuero (2017) “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism” La Civilta Cattolica


October 4

Class 13

Political Catholicism


Kalyvas, S. and K. van Kersbergen. 2010. “Christian Democracy,” Annual Review of Political Science (13) 183-209. (skip last section on Islam and democracy)


Religion and Democratization, chapter 4, pp.s 100-117, 123-134



Pope Pius XII 1944 Christmas Radiomessage

Bailey and Driessen (2017): “Engaging Post-Secularism: Rethinking Catholic Politics in Italy,”  Constellations, 24(2), 232-244.

Bailey and Driessen (2016) “Mapping Contemporary Catholic Politics in Italy,” Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 21(3), 419-425.

Jan-Werner Mueller, “Angela Merkel’s Misunderstood Christian Mission,” (2016) Foreign Policy  and “The End of Christian Democracy” (2014) Foreign Affairs




October 9

Class 14

Hindu Nationalism and Engaged Buddhism

Rajeev Bhargava, “Can Anything be Learned from the Indian Model of Secularism?” Chapter 5 in Rethinking Religion and World Affairs


Mikael Gravers (2012). "Monks, Morality and Military: The Struggle for Moral Power in Burma," Contemporary Buddhism



Sonia Paul, “Hindu Nationalism in the Age of Modi,” Vice News

Michael Jerryson, “Monks with Guns,”

Buddhism and Self-Immolation: The Theology of Self-Destruction,” The Economist

The Telegraph. Burma’s Bin Laden of Buddhism  




October 11

Class 15

Israel, Jewish Democracy and Eastern Orthodox Revivals

Kristina Stoeckl (2015). “Political liberalism and religious claims: The human rights debate in the Russian Orthodox Church as a challenging case-study” (on myjcu)

Jonathon Fox and Jonathan Rynhold, “A Jewish and Democratic State?” Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions  (2008) read pp.s 507- 518



Guy Ben-Porat (2000), “A State of Holiness: Rethinking Israeli Secularism,Alternatives

New York Times Soul-Searching in Israel after Bias Attacks,” (2015)

George Saroka, “Putin’s Patriach: Does the Kremlin control the church?Foreign Affairs (2015)




October 16

Class 16

Religion and Global Democratization Trends



God’s Century, chapter 4


5. War, Violence and Terrorism


October 18

Class 17  (Reading Reflection 4 due)



William Cavanaugh. 2004. “The Violence of Religion: Examining a Prevalent Myth,” &  Appleby’s review of Cavanaugh in Commonweal 




Kyle Harper. 2013. Christianity and the Roots of Human Dignity. Georgetown Berkley Center.

Samuel Moyn 2010. Personalism, Community and the Origins of Human Rights



October 23

Class 18




Religious Hostilities Reach 6-Year High 2014 Pew Report


God’s Century, Chapter  5 (pp.s 121-135) & Chapter 6



Eliza Griswold “The End of Christianity in the Middle East?” New York Times Magazine (2015)

Fait Muedini, “Sponsoring Sufism: And its problems as a Counterterrorism Strategy,” Foreign Affairs (2015).




October 25

Class 19




Graem Wood “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic (2015)


Adam Shatz, “Magical Thinking about ISIS,” London Review of Books (2015)



Here we option a fantastically fascinating rabbit hole of a discussion on Islam, violence, ISIS, immigration, Europe and how they are all related. For starters, you can peruse the following:


Richard Maass (2015), “Want to help the Islamic State recruit? Treat all Muslims like Terrorists,” Monkey Cage

William McCants, “Islamic Scripture is not the Problem,” Foreign Affairs (2015)

Scott Shane, (2015) “Faulted for Avoiding ‘Islamic’ Labels to Describe Terrorism, White House Cites a Strategic LogicNew York Times

Mark Levine (2015) “Why Charlie Hebdo Attack is not about Islam,” Al Jazeera

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig (2015) “Is ISIS Authentically Islamic? Ask Better Questions: The Pitched Battle of Religious Legitimacy” New Republic

The Economist Islam and Extremism: Looking within” and “Catholicism and Violence: Time for some new religious thinking about violence” (2016)

Pew Global Report (2014), “Middle East Concerns about Islamic Extremism Grow,


6. Reconciliation, Peace-making, Inter-faith Dialogue and Development

October 30

Class 20  (Reading Reflection 5 due)



God’s Century, Chapter 7



Andrea Bartoli Interview

Dan Philpott, “What Religion Offers for the Politics of Transitional Justice,” Chapter 9 in Rethinking Religion and World Affairs

Dan Philpott Interview. 2009. America. “Lessons in Mercy.”

James Gibson. 2006. “The Contributions of Truth to Reconciliation: Lessons from South Africa,Journal of Conflict Resolution

Washington Post,Can the Catholic Church save democracy in the Congo?” (2016)


November 6

Class 21

Politics of Inter-faith Dialogue

(Outline and Bibliography due)




Fabio Petito, “In Defence of Dialogue among Civilisations,” Millenium Journal of International Studies (2011)



Pew Research. 2013. Initiatives and Actions Aimed at Reducing Religious Restrictions or Hostilities”

A Common Word Statement: http://acommonword.com/lib/downloads/CW-Total-Final-v-12g-Eng-9-10-07.pdf

Michael Driessen and Brandon Vaidyanathan, “Interreligious Dialogue and the State in Muslim Modernity,Contending Modernities

Driessen, Petito, Appleby et al. Making Democracy One’s Own: Muslim, Catholic and Secular Perspectives in Dialogue on Development, Democracy and Peace (2016) Concept note and  related coverage here

November 8

Class 22




Jeffery Sachs. 2013. “Sowing the Future: How the Church can help Promote Sustainable Development Goals,” America


Pope Francis Speech to UN (2015)



Anthony Gill and Timothy Shah. 2013. “Religious Freedom, Democratization and Economic Development.”  Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture

Robert D. Woodberry. 2012. “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy,” American Political Science Review 106(2)

Katherine Marshall, “Religion and Development,” chapter 12 in Rethinking Religion and World Affairs

Pope Francis Encyclical Laudato Si’ (2015)

7. Religion and Foreign Policy

November 13

Class 23




Pew Forum, 2003, Religion and American Foreign Policy: (Read Hehir, Walzer and Krauthamer’s contributions 

Recommended: Bishop’s 1983 Pastoral Statement on Nuclear Weapons (sections 1-26, 66-79, 122-161, 200-244)

November 15

Class 24




Walter Russell Mead, “God’s Country,” Chapter 16 in Rethinking Religion and World Affairs

Thomas Farr, “America’s International Religious Freedom Policy,” Chapter 17 in Rethinking Religion and World Affairs



Immanent Frame discussions on US Foreign policy of promoting religious freedom abroad and on Religious Freedom in the US

November 20

Class 25




The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. 2009: “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad” pp.s 5-27, 55-82 


President Obama’s Cairo Speech:

President Trump’s Riyadh Speech



8. Prophetic Religion and Other Final Thoughts


November 22

Class 26

Final Paper Due






November 27

Class 27




God’s Century, chapter 8


November 29

Class 28





Jeff Scarlet (2009)  “The Supreme Love and Revolutionary Funk of Cornel West, The Philosopher of the Blues,” interview in Rolling Stone


Raboteau. (1988). “A Hidden WholenessSpirituality Today


Recommended (if you like Brother West):  “Cornel West: The Fire of a new Generation” New York Times August (2015):



Final Exam :


Final Revisions Due