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COURSE NAME: "Religion and Global Politics "
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2014

INSTRUCTOR: Michael Driessen
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 1:30 PM 2:45 PM


“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 goal of the first half of the semester will be to master some basic conceptual tools, definitions and frameworks which can be used to describe the relationship between religious ideas, actors and institutions and world politics. The goal of the second half of the semester will be to begin to try to apply and critique these conceptual tools by charting the extent to which religion influences (or doesn’t) major dynamics of global politics.

The course, therefore, will address normative concerns about the proper relationship between religion and states in contemporary political societies;  theoretical concerns about how various religious institutions interact with political processes; and empirical concerns about how, why and where individuals are religious across the globe and what influence that might have on their political behaviors. Students will have the opportunity to use and critique the concepts of the course 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 Islam and Democracy debate; the EU vs. the Crucifix debate; the French Veil controversy; the Syrian war debate, the role of Evangelicals in the African AIDS epidemic and the US government attempts to engage the “global Muslim community.”

 PL 209 (Introduction to International Affairs) and PL 223 (Introduction to Comparative Politics) are recommended for this course. That said, theology and philosophy majors are also most welcome to join us!



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; meet with professor Driessen 3 times outside of class to discuss them; 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 CenturyToft, Philpott and ShahW. W. Norton & CompanyISBN-10: 0393932737  
Rethinking Religion and World Affairs Shah, Stepan and ToftUniversity of OxfordISBN13: 9780199827992  
The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere Butler, Habermas et al.Columbia University PressISBN-10: 0231156464  
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Sacred and SecularNorris and InglehartCambridge University PressISBN-10: 1107648378  
The Ambivalence of the SacredApplebyRowman and LittlefieldISBN-10: 0847685551  
Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World De Vries and SullivanFordham University PressISBN-10: 082322645X  
American GracePutnam and CampbellSimon and SchusterISBN-10: 1416566732  

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.20%

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 course
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, Islam, Religion and Democracy

5. War, Violence and Terrorism

6. Reconciliation, Peace-making, Protests 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

13 January

Class 1

Course Introduction


15 January     

Class 2




God’s Century, Chapter 1


Economist 2007, “In God’s Name: A Survey of Religion” (GoogleScholar)


20 January     

Class 3




God’s Century, Chapter 2


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


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


22 January     

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: http://www.unil.ch/webdav/site/issrc/shared/8._Telechargement/Cours_MA_Chaves_2011/2008_Gorski_Altinordu.pdf


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



27 January

Class 5




Michael Driessen, “Religion, State and Democracy,” Politics and Religion, (3), 2010: http://michaelddriessen.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/religion-state-democracy.pdf


Recommended: Fenggang Yang. 2013. “The Dynamism of Chinese Christianity.” Berkley School Georgetown.


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

29 January

Class 6

(Reading Reflection 2 due)



Taylor and Habermas, The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, pp.s 1-60. Skim intro (pp.s 1-8) then read pp.s 15-60.


Recommended: Andrew March. 2013. “Rethinking Religious Justification in Public Reasoning,” American Political Science Review 107(3): http://www.polisci.ucla.edu/job-talks/pt-jb-papers/Religious-Reasons-by-Andrew-March.pdf


3 February

Class 7



Ratzinger-Habermas Dialogue: pp.s 261-276 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. 2012. “A Big Heart Open to God,”  Interview. America Magazine : http://americamagazine.org/pope-interview


5 February

Class 8

(Research Proposal and Bibliography due)



God’s Century, Chapter 3


Recommended : S. Eisenstadt. 2000. “Multiple Modernities,” Daedalus : http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/20027613?uid=3738296&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21103221877467

10 February

Class 9




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


Nader Hashemi. 2010. “The Multiple Histories of Secularism: Muslim Societies in Comparison,” Philosophy and Social Criticism. (36)2-3; 325-338: http://www.resetdoc.org/story/00000022047



4. Clash of Civilizations, Islam, Religion and Democracy

12 February

Class 10

(Reading Reflection 3 due)



Samuel P. Huntington. 1993. “Clash of Civilizations,” Foreign Affairs Summer: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/48950/samuel-p-huntington/the-clash-of-civilizations


Martin Kramer. 1997. “The Mismeasure of Political Islam,” in The Islamism Debate, M. Kramer (ed.) Tel Aviv: The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies:


17 February

Class 11




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


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


Recommended:  Alfred Stepan. 2012. “Tunisia’s Transition and the Twin Tolerations,” Journal of Democracy: http://www.journalofdemocracy.org/sites/default/files/Stepan-23-2.pdf


Danielle Lussier and Steven Fish. 2012.”Indonesia: The Benefits of Civic Engagement,” Journal of Democracy: http://www.journalofdemocracy.org/article/indonesia-benefits-civic-engagement


Mark Tessler, Amaney Jamal and Michael Robbins. 2012. “New Findings on Arabs and Democracy,” Journal of Democracy 23(4) 89-103: http://www.journalofdemocracy.org/article/new-findings-arabs-and-democracy


Abdullah An-Na’im. 2008. “Shari’a and the Secular State”:


19 February

Class 12

(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


Amr Boubekeur. 2005. “Cool and Competitive: Muslim Culture in the West” https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/handle/1887/16999/ISIM_16_Cool_and_Competitve_Muslim_Culture_in_the_West.pdf?sequence=1


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



Asef Bayat. 2011. “The Post-Islamist Revolution: What the Revolts in the Arab World Mean,” Foreign Affairs. http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/67812/asef-bayat/the-post-islamist-revolutions


24 February

Class 13




God’s Century, chapter 4


Recommended: Robert D. Woodberry. 2012. “The Missionary Roots of Liberal Democracy,” American Political Science Review 106(2): http://www.academia.edu/2128659/The_Missionary_Roots_of_Liberal_Democracy

26 February

Class 14




Pope Pius XII 1944 Christmas Radiomessage: http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius12/P12XMAS.HTM


Kalyvas, S. and K. van Kersbergen. 2010. “Christian Democracy,” Annual Review of Political Science (13) 183-209. (skip last section on Islam and democracy): http://stathis.research.yale.edu/documents/annurev.polisci.11.021406.pdf


Recommended: Franco Garelli. 2013. “Flexible Catholicism, Religion and the Church: The Italian Case,” Religions 4(1):  http://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/4/1/1/pdf


“A Christian Democratic Revival?” : http://michaeldriessen.com/2011/07/30/a-christian-democratic-revival/

3 March

Class 15




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


Recommended: Rajeev Bhargava. 2010. “Liberal, Secular Democracy and Explanations of Hindu Nationalism,” Commonwealth and Comparative Politics: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/713999593

5 March

Class 16




Tom Banchoff, “Interreligious Dialogue and International Relations,” Chapter 13 in Rethinking Religion and World Affairs


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


Skim: Clifford Bob, “The Baptist-Burqa Network,” (to be emailed)


Recommended: Pew Research. 2013. Initiatives and Actions Aimed at Reducing Religious Restrictions or Hostilities”: http://www.pewforum.org/2013/06/20/arab-spring-restrictions-on-religion-sidebar2/



Michael Driessen and Brandon Vaidyanathan, “Interreligious Dialogue and the State in Muslim Modernity,” Contending Modernities: http://blogs.nd.edu/contendingmodernities/2011/12/09/interreligious-dialogue-and-the-state-in-muslim-modernity/

5. War, Violence and Terrorism


10 March

Class 17  (Reading Reflection 4 due)



William Cavanaugh. 2004. “The Violence of Religion: Examining a Prevalent Myth,” http://www.nd.edu/~kellogg/publications/workingpapers/WPS/310.pdf


Appleby’s review of Cavanaugh in Commonweal: 



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

12 March

Class 18




God’s Century, Chapter 5


Pape, 2003, “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” American Political Science Review, Google Scholar


Recommended: “The Evolution of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham,” 2013. Al-Monitor: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/security/2013/11/syria-islamic-state-iraq-sham-growth.html#




SPRING BREAK March 17th  – 21st

24 March

Class 19




God’s Century, Chapter 6


Recommended: Vali Nasr. 2006. “When the Shiites Arise,” Foreign Policy: http://www.mafhoum.com/press9/282S26.htm

6. Reconciliation, Peace-making and Development

26 March

Class 20  (Reading Reflection 5 due)



God’s Century, Chapter 7


Andrea Bartoli Interview: http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2010/03/10/religious-peacemaking-in-a-secular/


Recommended: 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.” http://americamagazine.org/issue/696/article/lessons-mercy

31 March

Class 21

(Outline due)



James Gibson. 2006. “The Contributions of Truth to Reconciliation: Lessons from South Africa,” Journal of Conflict Resolution:  http://www.arts.yorku.ca/politics/ncanefe/courses/pols4255/pdf/Week%209%20Gibson.pdf

Diane Winston, “Old Monks, New Media and the Limits of Soulcraft,” chapter 15 in Rethinking Religion and World Affairs


Recommended: Michael Jerryson, “Monks with Guns,” http://www.religiondispatches.org/books/2158/monks_with_guns:_discovering_buddhist_violence/

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


“Buddhism and Self-Immolation: The Theology of Self-Destruction,” The Economist. http://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2013/03/buddhism-and-self-immolation

2 April

Class 22




Anthony Gill and Timothy Shah. 2013. “Religious Freedom, Democratization and Economic Development.”  Association for the Study of Religion, Economics and Culture: http://repository.berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/130413GillShahReligiousFreedomDemocratizationEconomicDevelopment.pdf



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


Jeffery Sachs. 2013. “Sowing the Future: How the Church can help Promote Sustainable Development Goals,” America: http://americamagazine.org/issue/sowing-future

7. Religion and Foreign Policy

4 April

Class 23



MAKE-UP CLASS for April 21st


Pew Forum, 2003, Religion and American Foreign Policy: (Read Hehir, Walzer and Krauthamer’s contributions  http://www.pewforum.org/Politics-and-Elections/Religion-and-American-Foreign-Policy-Prophetic-Perilous-Inevitable.aspx

Recommended: Bishop’s 1983 Pastoral Statement on Nuclear Weapons (sections 1-26, 66-79, 122-161, 200-244):  http://www.usccb.org/sdwp/international/TheChallengeofPeace.pdf

7 April

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


9 April

Class 25




President Obama’s Cairo Speech: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/us/politics/04obama.text.html


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



8. Prophetic Religion and Other Final Thoughts


14 April

Class 26

Final Paper Due






Cornel West “Prophetic Religion and the Future of Capitalist Civilization,” in the Power of Religion in the Public Sphere


Raboteau. 1988. “A Hidden Wholeness”:



16 April

Class 27





23 April

Class 28




God’s Century, chapter 8


Craig Calhoun, “Religion’s Many Powers, in the Power of Religion in the Public Sphere



Final Exam :


Final Revisions Due