Harvard Professor to Discuss Religion, Politics in Elmhurst

Article excerpt

Byline: Elmhurst College submission

Religion is one of the most unifying forces in American society, but also one of the most divisive, especially in the political arena.

With the U.S. presidential contest as a backdrop, Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam will explore the influence of religion on American public life when he presents "Religion, Democracy and Civic Engagement"Thursday, Feb. 9, at Elmhurst College.

Putnam describes America as a very religious country, whose communities

of faith contribute to the vitality of its democracy.

"Over the last half century America has become more polarized in religious and political terms, but, at the same time, Americans are increasingly and surprisingly tolerant across religious lines," he says.

"How America manages to be religiously devout, religiously diverse, and yet religiously tolerant--and, thus, how religion contributes to American democracy--is the central puzzle in this talk."

Putnam is the co-author of "American Grace: How Religion Unites and Divides Us," a multifaceted study of American religious life and civic engagement.

The book draws, in large part, from the Faith Matters Survey conducted in 2006 and 2007, which asked more than 3,000 Americans about religion and their level of social and political engagement.

The survey found religious Americans are more active in civic affairs, more trusting of others and more apt to give time and money to charities, including secular ones. …