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COURSE NAME: "Religion and Global Politics"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Michael Driessen
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 9:55-11:15 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 on the relationship between religion and politics in modernity. Our fourth section begins with a look at the decades-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 the evolving relationship of religion to 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 2-page reflections on a reading or set of readings from five sections of the course. Two of these five reflections may be substituted for 2-page reflections on a significant “religion and politics” news item of the week which connects the media coverage to a theme of the course.


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 19), 4) the Final Paper (30% of the final grade, to be turned in class 23), 5) an in-class presentation of the research (to be scheduled during Classes 25 & 26), 5% of the final grade, 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 at least one of the “recommended” readings each class; 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 NumberCommentsFormatLocal BookstoreOnline Purchase
God's CenturyToft, Philpott and ShahNortonISBN 978-0-393-06926-6 Please send to Almost Corner Bookstore   
Rethinking Religion and World AffairsShah, Stepan and ToftOxford University PressISBN13: 9780199827992 please send to almost corner bookstore   

Short Reflections (5)2-3 pages each, on assigned sections 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 21

Class 1

Course Introduction

September 23

Class 2




God’s Century, Chapter 1

Religion and Democratization, Introduction




September 28

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 30

Class 4

(Reading Reflection 1 due)



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


Ronald Inglehart. 2020. “Giving up on God: The Global Decline of Religion,” Foreign Affairs


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:








October 2

Class 5

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





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

October 5

Class 6

(Reading Reflection 2 due)



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


Jurgen Habermas, (2011). “The Political: The Rational Meaning of a Questionable Inheritance of Political Theology,” in The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere ed. Mendieta and VanAntwerpen. Columbia University Press.



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)

October 7

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”


October 12

Class 8

(Research Proposal due)



God’s Century, Chapter 3



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


October 14

Class 9




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


4. Clash of Civilizations, Religions and Democracies

October 19

Class 10

(Reading Reflection 3 due)



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



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

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.


October 21

Class 11

Islam and Democracy




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


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



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 Democracy23(4) 89-103



October 26

Class 12

Contemporary Politics of Christianity pt I

(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


Melissa J. Wilde (2018), “Complex Religion: Interrogating Assumptions of Independence in the Study of Religion,” Sociology of Religion 79(3)



The Religious Roots of a New Progressive Era: Welcome to the post-Protestant Reformation,” Ross Douthat, New York Times, July 7th, 2020

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

David Voas and Mark Chaves, (2016) “Is the United States a Counterexample to the Secularization Thesis?American Journal of Sociology 121(5)


October 28

Class 13

Contemporary Politics of Christianity pt II


Michele Margolis (2018), “How Politics Affects Religion: Partisanship, socialization and religiosity in America,” The Journal of Politics 80(1). Margolis wrote a short summary of the argument of this paper (and her subsequent book) in the following New York Times Op Ed (2018): “When Politicians Determine Religious Beliefs,”


Why Rev. William Barber thinks we need a moral revolution,” Interview by Sean Illing, Vox (August 18, 2020).

“Is Atheism the Reason for Ta-Nehisi Coates Pessimism on Race Relations?” Daniel Stienmetz-Jenkins The Guardian, October 22, 2017



William Barber II, Liz Theoharis, Timothy B. Tyson and Cornel West, “What the Courage to Change Looks Like,” June 19th, 2020, New York Times

Michele Margolis (2020), “Who Wants to Make America Great Again? Understanding Evangelical Support for Donald Trump,” Politics and Religion 13(1)


Nicolas van de Walle (2019), “Pentecostal Republic: Religion and the Struggle for State Power in Nigeria,” Foreign Affairs

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





November 2



Class 14

Political Catholicism

(Reading Reflection 4 due)

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 & (2020). “Catholicism and European Politics: Two New Trends,” Immanent Frame


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

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







November 4

Class 15

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




November 6

Class 16

Israel, Jewish Democracy and Eastern Orthodox Revivals

Kristina Stoeckl (2016). “The Russian Orthodox Church as Moral Norm Entrepreneur,” Religion, State and Society 44(2)

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)




5. War, Violence and Terrorism


November 9

Class 17 (Reading Reflection 5 due)



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


Jason Klocek and Ron E. Hassner, (2020), “War and Religion: An Overview,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia



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

Religious Hostilities Reach 6-Year High 2014 Pew Report

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

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


November 11

Class 18




Peter Henne (2019), “Terrorism and Religion: An Overview,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia


Graeme Wood “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic (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:


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

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 16

Class 19 (Outline and Bibliography 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 18

Class 20

Religion and Development




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 23

Class 21

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 25

Class 22




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

Andrew Bacevich (2015), “Under God: Same-sex marriage and Foreign Policy,” Commonweal


November 30

Class 23

Final Paper Due


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


December 2

Class 24

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

Michael Driessen, (2020), “Good-faith Arguments: The Value of Keeping KAICIID,Commonweal 147(2)

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. Presentations and Other Final Thoughts


December 7

Class 25






December 9

Class 26




God’s Century, chapter 8





Final Exam :


Final Revisions Due