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

INSTRUCTOR: Michael Driessen
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 11:30 AM 12:45 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 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; meet with professor Driessen 2 times outside of class to discuss them; write a reflection paper on at least one of them; and hand  in a 15-20 page final paper.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
God's CenturyToft, Philpott and ShahNorton978-0393069266  
Rethinking Religion and Global AffairsShah, Stepan and ToftOxford University Press 9780199827992  
The Power of Religion in the Public SphereVanantwerpenColumbia Press978-0231156462  

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 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, 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

 Sept 1

Class 1

No Class! American Political Science Association Annual Conference, Washington DC


 Sept 3

Class 2

Course Introduction




God’s Century, Chapter 1

 Sept 8

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?

 Sept 10

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:



 Sept 15

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:  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

 Sept 17

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


 Sept 22

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. 2012. “A Big Heart Open to God,”  Interview. America Magazine : http://americamagazine.org/pope-interview


 Sept 24

Class 8

(Research Proposal and Bibliography due)



God’s Century, Chapter 3


 Sept 29

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

 Oct 1

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


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


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



Religion News: “Ukranian Crisis may split Russian Orthodox Church”



 Oct 6

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” https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/handle/1887/16999/ISIM_16_Cool_and_Competitve_Muslim_Culture_in_the_West.pdf?sequence=1


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


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:



 Oct 8

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


Senator Obama (2006) Speech on Faith and Politics at Call to Renewal's Building a Covenant for a New America conference http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/28/us/politics/2006obamaspeech.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print&


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


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



 Oct 13

Class 13

Political Catholicism

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/




 Oct 15

Class 14

Hindu Nationalism

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


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



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





 Oct 20

Class 15

Engaged Buddhism

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


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


Sallie King. 2009. Socially Engaged Buddhism. University of Hawai'i Press.



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


The Telegraph. Burma’s Bin Laden of Buddhism





 Oct 22

Class 16

Religion and Global Democratization Trends



God’s Century, chapter 4



5. War, Violence and Terrorism


 Oct 27

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.

 Oct 29

Class 18




Religious Hostilities Reach 6-Year High 2014 Pew Report: http://www.pewforum.org/2014/01/14/religious-hostilities-reach-six-year-high/


God’s Century, Chapter 5




Keith Johnson, (2014) “The Islamic State is the Newest Petrostate,” Foreign Policy http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/07/28/baghdadis_hillbillies_isis_iraq_syria_oil_terrorism_islamic_state?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=*Mideast%20Brief&utm_campaign=2014_The%20Middle%20East%20Daily_7.29.14


Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian “This Islamic State Nightmare is not a Holy War but a Holy Mess,” http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/08/islamic-state-nightmare-not-holy-unholy-mess-iraq?CMP=fb_gu




 Nov 3

Class 19




God’s Century, Chapter 6


Recommended: “Life in a Jihadist Capital”  July 24th, 2014 New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/24/world/middleeast/islamic-state-controls-raqqa-syria.html?_r=0&module=ArrowsNav&contentCollection=Middle%20East&action=keypress&region=FixedLeft&pgtype=article


“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#


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


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

 Nov 5

Class 20  (Reading Reflection 5 due)



God’s Century, Chapter 7


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




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


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


 Nov 10

Class 21

Politics of Inter-faith Dialogue

(Outline due)




Fabio Petito, “In Defence of Dialogue among Civilisations,” Millenium Journal of International Studies (2011) http://www.ispionline.it/it/documents/Religioni2011/Petito_In%20Defence%20of%20Dialogue%20of%20Civilisations....pdf

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/

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: http://blogs.nd.edu/contendingmodernities/2011/12/09/interreligious-dialogue-and-the-state-in-muslim-modernity/

 Nov 17

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


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


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

 Nov  17

Class 23




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

 Nov 19


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


 Nov 24

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


 Nov 26

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”:



 Dec 1

Class 27





 Dec 3

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