Ten years ago today President Clinton signed the landmark International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), a law its supporters hoped would put religious freedom at the core of American foreign policy. During the ensuing decade IRF policies have produced admirable and encouraging results, including humanitarian successes and institutional first steps toward altering the secularist culture at the State Department. However, it cannot yet be said that religious freedom is anywhere near the center of U.S. foreign policy. The next administration should elevate and broaden IRF policy in order to serve both the humanitarian and the national security interests of the United States. [...]
Original essays reflecting on current events, debates in the field, and other public matters relevant to scholarship in secularism and religion.
Last week as I listened, along with many other Americans and others around the world, to President Bush's most recent effort to reassure us about the current economic meltdown I had a "Road to Damascus" moment. It happened as I heard Bush repeat the word "faith". [...]
The recent visit of Benedict XVI to the U.S. demonstrates once again the uncanny ability of the most influential popes to embody the prospects as well as highlight the contradictions of the Roman Catholic Church in the world. The Pope's visit conversely afforded an opportunity for U.S. Catholics, other people of faith, and the media to project onto Benedict their hopes and fears regarding the Church's global role as a moral leader in public life. [...]
How far has the Catholic Church traveled in its almost 43 years as an advocate of religious freedom? Apparently, the journey has brought the Vatican to the brink of allying itself, however cautiously, with all believers whose search for the Truth of God has led them, or may be leading them, to endorse human dignity and human freedom as the basis for world order and cross-cultural, transnational peace.
"During their meeting, the Holy Father and the President discussed a number of topics of common interest to the Holy See and the United States of America, including moral and religious considerations to which both parties are committed..." The United States committed to "moral and religious considerations"? Considerations shared with a particular religious organization, the Roman Catholic Church? This was news, or seemed to be. [...]
Are international relations theorists about to awake from their long secular slumber and discover that the world has had, has, and always will have a religious dimension? There is clearly a growing interest in religion, much of it driven by its presumed association with various forms of collective violence. Yet so far international relations theorists have spent little time wondering how religion in global life might implicate their existing theories of international relations or how existing theories of international relations might help us better understand the shape, forms, and consequences of religion in world affairs. [...]
The contested question of whether in a liberal democracy religion – religious rationales – may serve as a basis of coercive lawmaking must be disaggregated into two distinct questions: First, is religion a morally legitimate basis of (coercive) lawmaking in a liberal democracy? Second, is religion a constitutionally legitimate basis of lawmaking in the United States?
Sometimes we come closest to the gods in moments of play. When play is genuine, time is suspended and we are lifted into an eternal Now, where passing away seems to pass away. The value of play, like fine art, is intrinsic. We might say of play what Heidegger says of a rose, that it is “without why.” Always purposeless, the beauty of play is that it is not utilitarian; it is valuable because it is impractical. As Nietzsche teaches in his “Gay Science,” play, which is beyond good and evil, reveals the wisdom of unworldly folly and the folly of worldly wisdom. [...]
The Super Bowl is an annual ritual celebration of the classical virtues embodied in the game of football, virtues that help fortify our national character. I know that not everyone will see so much in the event. For some critics, the Super Bowl is a mere spectacle, empty pomp and crass consumerist craze, all as meaningless as the silver glitz of the Patriots cheerleaders’ pom-poms. [...]
Among the various fields of the social sciences, international relations theory has established itself both as scientific and as politically relevant. Along with economics, it is a model of social scientific expertise, and it has an established record of informing state policies. It provides a standard of political rationality against which policy decisions can be matched and assessed. [...]