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The John M. Olin Center for Inquiry into the Theory and Practice of Democracy

Religion and American Democracy


Autumn Quarter
Winter Quarter
Spring Quarter


In the Olin Center's lecture series for 1997-1998, we are addressing the place of religion in American democracy. This series will consider both the relation of religion to American political thought and practice in general, and also certain more specific topics such as the role of religion in citizenship, the struggle for civil rights, mores, and higher education. We are pleased in this series to host a lecture by Archbishop Francis E. George, the first lecture on our campus by Chicago's new Archbishop.

Our interest in this topic is prompted by long-standing questions about the relation between religious belief and liberal democracy as well as by recent developments that have raised new hopes and fears regarding the public role of organized religion. We shall address such questions as, What role did religion (specifically, Christianity) play in the theory and practice of the American Founding and in America's early history? How should we today understand the (religious) nature of American society: as basically Christian (mainly Protestant); as religious but pluralistically so; as liberal and tolerant, fundamentally neutral as between religion and irreligion; or as decisively secular (capitalistic, scientistic, economistic, hedonistic, etc.)? What are the positive contributions of religious beliefs and practices to the civil rights movement, race relations, patriotism, family life, and mores? What are the proper relations between religion and higher education, law, science, or commerce? Are we more in danger from religious zealotry and intolerance of minorities than from spiritual emptiness and moral relativism, arguably linked to "secularization"? Can religion serve its highest calling if it mixes too much in day-to-day politics? Our goal is a richer appreciation of the importance of religion for contemporary American life.


[unless otherwise stated, lectures take place in Social Sciences room 122]

Autumn Quarter

October 15 Professor Mark Noll,
Wheaton College
Evangelicals in the American Founding and Evangelical Political Mobilization Today
October 29 Professor Peter Berkowitz,
Harvard University
Virtue and Religion in the Liberal Tradition
November 19 Professor Barry Shain,
Colgate University
Congregationalism, the Right of Religious Conscience, and Original Sin: America's Protestant Foundings: Burden or Boon?

Winter Quarter

January 14 Professor Michael McConnell,
University of Utah
Believers as Equal Citizens
January 29
Mandel Hall
1131 E. 57th St.
Archbishop Francis E. George,
Archdiocese of Chicago
The Role of the Church in a Pluralistic Society
February 18 Rev. Dr. Anthony Campbell,
Boston University School of Theology
Influence of Music and Vocal Iambic on the Civil Rights Movement: The Black Church and Civil Rights"

Spring Quarter

April 15
Max Palevsky Cinema
1212 E. 59th St.
Professor Gertrude Himmelfarb,
Graduate School of the City University of New York
Two Cultures: The Moral Divide
April 29 Professor Mark Schwehn,
Christ College, Valparaiso University
On Religion and Higher Education

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Revised: January 2nd, 2000