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COURSE NAME: "Seminar on Religion and Global Politics"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

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

This advanced seminar examines why and how religion influences global politics, and how religion and politics ought to influence each other in different democratic societies. The seminar is interdisciplinary, addressing these questions from the perspectives of normative political theory, empirical political science and law. The empirical part of the seminar will address concerns about how, why and where individuals are religious across the globe, and in what ways their religious ideas and identities influence their political decisions and behaviors. The theoretical part of the course will focus on contemporary debates over the freedom and tolerance of religion and the engagements of religions in political dialogue. In the legal part, we will examine the major questions posed by legal rights of religious freedom (including both freedom of religion and freedom from religion): the origins and scope of these rights, the problems in defining them, and the values with which they can conflict. This course is designed for advanced undergraduates majoring in political science, philosophy or a related field. 

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 4 sections of the course.


In lieu of a final exam, you are required to write a 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), 2) a 10-minute meeting with me (2.5% of the final grade), 3) a two-page outline which introduces the argument and the paper’s components and includes a bibliography (10% of the final grade), 4) the Final Paper (30% of the final grade), 5) an in-class presentation of the research, 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.

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



Short Reflections (4)2-3 pages each, on assigned sections of readings. Reading reflections must be turned in by the dates indicated in the syllabus.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.

Grading Scale:

A:      94-100

A-:     90-93.99

B+:    87-89.99

B:      84-86.99

B-:     80-83.99

C+:    77-79.99

C:      74-76.99

C-:     70-73.99

D+:    67-69.99

D:      64-66.99

D-:     60-63.99

F:       0-59.99

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.


see moodle coursepage for full schedule