Conference on Public Life and Religious Diversity

In the past two decades, there has been much talk in political theory about the role of religion in the public sphere. The resulting discussions of public reason and its limits, secularism and disestablishment, the nature of toleration, and the scope of religious exemptions have been invaluable. For many theorists, however, the fundamental worry remains: can the tensions between the demands of liberalism and the obligations of faith be negotiated? Or will containing—or constraining—religion within the bounds of a liberal polity always infringe upon the freedom of conscience ostensibly at liberalism’s core?

Today, these concerns have only grown in the face of new and pressing practical challenges, and our theories of public life and religious diversity must evolve to meet them. The increasing diversity of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices; the phenomenon (and fear) of ‘religious extremism’; the complex interplay between religions, gender, and sexuality; the many different ways that social institutions engage with religious practice, all call for new thinking in political theory.

This conference will explore what the next steps should be for research on religious diversity and public life by bringing perspectives from political theory, philosophy and the history of political thought to bear on the pressing political questions of our age. Through it, we hope to generate new understandings and original proposals that will set the agenda for new research avenues in the field of religion and politics and provide a forum for critical discussion.

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