Religion and the American Future
A workshop of the W. H. Brady Program in Culture and Freedom
About This Event

Religion stands at the center of many of the most pressing questions of the early twenty-first century. Western civilization may, indeed, be at an epochal inflection point: the turn from its ancestral faiths bears momentous implications for the future. This workshop, bringing together an array of thinkers from a variety of disciplines, will examine the current crisis and explore avenues for its resolution. A limited number of seats will be available for observers who will be welcome to offer questions and comments following the initial discussion at each session.

Agenda

Thursday, October 26

9:00-10:30 a.m.
God in the Advanced West
Speaker:
Senator Marcello Pera
Former President of the Italian Senate; opposition spokesperson,
Foreign Affairs Committee; co-author with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of
Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam
First Comment:
Michael Novak
George Frederick Jewett Scholar, AEI

Christianity, though still vibrant in the United States, is waning throughout Europe, which now faces the dual challenges of materialistic secularism and Islamic fanaticism. America alone seems capable of maintaining a balance of religious and secular cultures—although even here intellectual elites may be moving toward a radical laïcisme. The consequences of this momentous shift are just beginning to unfold. What are we to make of the future of the West?

10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
Religion and Politics
Speaker:
John C. Green
Professor of Political Science, University of Akron and Director,
Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics
First Comment:
Fred Barnes
Executive Editor, The Weekly Standard

Among the best predictors of recent voting behavior has been the frequency with which one attends church: the more regular one's attendance, the more likely one is to vote Republican. This fact has been much discussed and still more caricatured. Yet the simple dichotomy of Red State piety and Blue State secularism tends to obscure as much as it reveals. Are there better, deeper ways to map the contours of the American religious landscape? Do the efforts of the New Religious Left have a reasonable chance of replicating the political success of the Religious Right? Or is the trend towards one religious and one secular party likely to become a permanent feature of our politics?

12:30-1:15 p.m.
Religion and Demography
Speaker:
Nicholas Eberstadt
Henry Wendt Scholar, AEI
First Comment:
Christopher Levenick
W. H. Brady Doctoral Fellow, AEI

The meek, it has been said, shall inherit the earth—but increasingly it appears that the future belongs not so much to the meek as to the devout. As fertility rates plummet across the globe, religious believers seem to be uniquely protected against the twenty-first century's looming demographic implosion. This trend should not be altogether surprising. A distinct reproductive advantage would seem to obtain among those who discern a purpose to human life, who are inclined to sacrifice present for future happiness, and who believe themselves called to "be fruitful and increase in number." Thus goes the theory, but how well does it correspond to the facts? And, if there is indeed a relation between faith and fertility, are there other plausible explanations that might enhance our understanding of the correlation?

1:30-3:00 p.m.
Religion and the Arts
Speaker:
Roger Kimball
Editor, The New Criterion; Publisher, Encounter Books
First Comment:
Charles Murray
W. H. Brady Scholar, AEI

From the sculpture of Michelangelo to the canvases of Caravaggio, from the cantatas of Bach to the Requiem Mass of Mozart, from the prose of Augustine to the poetry of Milton: many of the greatest achievements of Western art have been inspired by the Christian tradition. Yet few artists today seem inclined, or capable, to explore these depths. At the same time, Western art finds itself much impoverished. Is this merely coincidental? Or is there, as Tolstoy suggested, a relationship between great art and religion? Can great art be created absent a belief in the transcendent power of truth, beauty, and goodness? What are the chances of a renewed religious seriousness within the fine arts?

3:15-4:45 p.m.
Religion and Science
Speaker:
Leon Kass
Hertog Fellow, AEI
First Comment:
David Gelernter
Professor of Computer Science, Yale University;
National Fellow, AEI

The intellectual vitality of the Western world owes much to the creative tension which has long existed between reason and revelation. Since the Enlightenment, that friction has usually occurred between science and religion. The two modes of knowledge have sometimes been considered complementary, just as they have sometimes been considered contradictory. Will the scientific discoveries of the twenty-first century alter the terms of the debate? How will advances in our knowledge of the human genome, or cognitive science, or our cosmological origins affect religious belief? Conversely, what, if anything, might twenty-first century science learn from religion?

Friday, October 27

9:00-10:30 a.m.
Religion and the Law
Speaker:
Douglas Kmiec
Professor of Constitutional Law, Pepperdine University Law School
First Comment:
Michael S. Greve
John G. Searle Scholar, AEI
Second Comment:
Kevin Seamus Hasson
Founder and Chairman, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

For sixty years, the U.S. Supreme Court has steadily advanced the cause of constitutional secularism. But that project may now be falling victim to its own success—its staunchest advocates have been reduced to highly unpopular causes such as the campaign against the Pledge of Allegiance, while Establishment Clause jurisprudence is increasingly recognized as opportunistic and self-contradictory. Does the current climate present opportunities for serious reconsideration—not only of particular doctrines and precedents but of the larger question of constitutional norms for a society where religious belief and practice are pervasive and deep?

10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
The End of the Secular Age
Speaker:
Michael Novak
George Frederick Jewett Scholar, AEI
First Comment:
Roger Scruton
Research Professor, Institute for the Psychological Sciences

Writers such as Irving Kristol have predicted either the decline of secular humanism or a renegotiation of the terms of the conversation with religious persons. Now secularists such as Jürgen Habermas, faced with evidence of religious renewal surrounding the world of secular humanism, have analyzed the limits of secularism and called for a rethinking of its tradition of contempt for religion. The new post-secular age is unlikely to be characterized by an abandonment of atheism or agnosticism. But it is likely that secular humanists will form a new idea of their own limits, a new awareness of their dependence on religious cultures, and a capacity to learn from and converse with those outside their ranks.

Also Visit
AEIdeas Blog The American Magazine

What's new on AEI

To secure southern border, US must lead international effort to stabilize Central America
image The Ryan pro-work, anti-poverty plan: Thomas Aquinas 1, Ayn Rand 0
image Does SNAP support work? Yes and no
image Obama Democrats lose their big bet on health exchanges
AEI Participants

 

Nicholas
Eberstadt

 

Michael S.
Greve

 

Leon R.
Kass

 

Charles
Murray

 

Michael
Novak
AEI on Facebook