When Religion and Politics Collide

By McGown, David | International Journal, Fall 2004 | Go to article overview

When Religion and Politics Collide


McGown, David, International Journal


"GOD'S BACK WITH A VENGEANCE: religion, pluralism, and the secular state," the 73rd annual conference of the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs, started with the premise that recent trends in strong religious adherence globally are the cause of at least some of the strains and domestic tensions now felt around the world. For the first time in its history, the Couchiching Institute's annual conference focused on the nexus between religion and politics. Over the course of four days in August, it explored the causes of religious revivalism, the complexities of the current phenomenon, specific country studies, and, in particular, the difference in religion and public life as experienced in Canada and the USA. We heard voices from Somalia, from Turkey, from Canada, from the UK, and from the USA; our audience was similarly diverse.

Among the speakers that this conference brought together were world-renowned author Karen Armstrong; Robert Orsi of Harvard's Divinity School; Ali Jimale Ahmed of the City University of New York; Katherine Marshall of the World Bank; US religion and public policy expert Melissa Rogers; Canadian senator Mobina Jaffer; Jerrold Post of George Washington University; Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi and Jasmine Zine of the University of Toronto; Michael Adams of Environics; Martin Cauchon, former Canadian justice minister; Merve Kavakci, former Turkish legislator; Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; Luis Lugo of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life; humanist Robert Buckman; and journalist Patrick Graham.

The following excerpts offer just a hint of the breadth of views expressed. Nonetheless, three strong themes emerged. First, strong religious adherence is growing in Africa, Asia, South America, and two thirds of North America, which makes holdouts of Canada and Europe-places that are increasingly secular.

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