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COURSE NAME: "Religion and Global Politics"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2019

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 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 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 Class 21), 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. You are required to read the readings before class, to take notes and questions from them and to bring the reading material for discussion in class. 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.

Note Well: The JCU Library has prepared the following page with links to e-books and reserve readings for this course: Link. If you are not familiar with it already, the Library’s Political Science Research Guide is also very helpful: Link


Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
God’s Century Toft, Philpott and ShahNorton978-0-393-06926-6  
Rethinking Religion and World Affairs Shah, Stepan and Toft Oxford University Press13: 9780199827992 Please send this and all of my books to the Almost Corner Bookstore. Thanks!
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Religion and DemocratizationMichael DriessenOxford University Press978-0199329700  
The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere Van AntwerpenColumbia University PRess978-0231156462  
Sacred and SecularNorris and InglehartCambridge University Press978-1107648371  
The Ambivalence of the SacredScott ApplebyRowman and Little978-0847685554  
Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World De Vries and SullivanFordham University Press978-0823226450  
American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us Putnam and CampbellSimon and Schuster978-1416566731  

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, and Development

7. Religion and Foreign Policy: Religious Freedom and Interreligious Dialogue

8. Prophetic Religion and Other Final Thoughts

Course Calendar

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

September 2

Class 1

Course Introduction

September 4

Class 2

God’s Century, Chapter 1

Religion and Democratization, Introduction

September 9


September 11

Class 3

God’s Century, Chapter 2

Appleby, 2000, The Ambivalence of the Sacred, pp.s 1-8, skim pp.s 9-34 Library Reserves

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

September 16

Class 4

(Reading Reflection 1 due)

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

 Recommended: 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 18

Class 5

Michael Driessen (2019), “Religious Establishment as a Subject of Political Science,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics myjcu


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

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

3. Secularism, Public Religion and Multiple Modernities

September 23

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 25

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”  

September 30

Class 8

(Research Proposal due)

God’s Century, Chapter 3

October 2

Class 9

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

October 7

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:

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

October 9

Class 11

Islam and Democracy

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

Lara Deeb and Mona Harb, (2013). Leisurely Islam: Negotiating Geography and Morality in Shi’ite South Beirut. Princeton University Press. Chapter 1 (available as ebook at JCU.


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

October 14

Class 12

Contemporary Politics of Christianity

(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

Daniel Cox and Robert P. Jones (2017). “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” Public Religion Research Institute


Javier Corrales, “A Perfect Marriage: Evangelicals and Conservatives in Latin America,” New York Times. January 17, 2018.

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

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

October 16

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):

Michael Driessen (2014). Religion and Democratization, chapter 4, pp.s 100-117, 123-134

Prime Minister Orban’s (2018) Speech at the 29th Balvanyos Summer Open University and Student Camp

Recommended: Pope Pius XII 1944 Christmas Radiomessage

Franco Garelli. (2013). “Flexible Catholicism, Religion and the Church: The Italian Case,Religions 4(1) 

Massimo Faggioli, (2018), “Whose Rome: Burke, Bannon and the Eternal City,” & “Against the System: Italy’s New Government Shows Populism’s Dark Side,Commonweal

October 18

(make up for September 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

Kyaw Hlaing, 2008, “Challenging the Authoritarian State: Buddhist Monks and Peaceful Protests in Burma

Susan Hayward and Iselin Frydenlund (2019). “Religion, Secularism and the Pursuit of Peace in Myanmar,” Transatlantic Policy Networks on Religion and Diplomacy


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  

Buddhist Extremist Cells Vow to Unleash Tranquility on West,” The Onion, 11 November 2013

October 21

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 23

Class 16

Religion and Global Democratization Trends

God’s Century, chapter 4

5. War, Violence and Terrorism

October 28

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. 2016. “Christianity and the Roots of Human Dignity,” in Christianity and Freedom: Historical Perspectives, ed. Shah and Hertzke, Cambridge University Press

October 30

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)

November 4

Class 19

Graeme 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

Graeme Wood, (2016), “Is Trump right about ISIS?The Atlantic

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)

6. Reconciliation, Peace-making, and Development

November 6

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.”

Congolese Bishops seek Help from Regional Bloc to Ensure Free, Fair Poll,” Crux Now 17 September, 2018

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

November 11

Class 21

Religion and Development

(Outline and Bibliography due)

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: Religious Freedom and Interreligious Dialogue

November 13

Class 22

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

Melani McAlister, 2019, “American Evangelicals, the Changing Global Religious Environment and Contemporary Politics,” Transatlantic Policy Network on Religion and Diplomacy


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

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

November 18

Class 23

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

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, (2016), “Beyond Religious Freedom: An Introduction,” The Immanent Frame


Jenna Reinbold (2019), “Who Benefits from Conflicts over Religious Freedom?” Religion and Politics

November 20

Class 24

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

Fabio Petito et al. (2019). “Interreligious Engagement Strategies: A Policy Tool to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief,” FORB & Foreign Policy Initiative


President Obama’s (2009) Cairo Speech

November 25

Class 25

Michael Driessen (Forthcoming) The Global Politics of Interreligious Dialogue: Introduction & Chapter 1, myjcu

Peter Mandaville and Shadi Hamid, (2019), “Islam as Statecraft: How Governments use Religion in Foreign Policy,Brookings Institute


Pope Francis and Grand Imam Ahmed Tayyeb, (2019),“A Document on Human Fraternity: For World Peace and Living Together

Usaama al-Azami (2018), “UAE’s Forum for Promoting Peace another Cynical PR Initiative," Middle East Eye

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

8. Prophetic Religion and Other Final Thoughts

November 27

Class 26

Final Paper Due


December 2

Class 27


God’s Century, chapter 8

December 4

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 Wholeness”:

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

Final Exam :

Final Revisions Due