Faith and the Challenges of Secularism
See Schedule for list of panelists.
Forty years ago, secularism seemed to many commentators to be the way of the future. Few would say that with confidence today. Secularist ideas have significantly shaped, and continue to shape, the culture, politics, and economics of Western societies. Moreover, important political, social, and cultural divisions in the West reflect a conflict between worldviews informed by faith and those expressive of secularist ideologies. In the international sphere, the rise of militant religious movements in some nations, on the one hand, and what is perceived as the aggressive secularism of many European and American elites, on the other, increases the potential for conflict in coming decades. This conference explores the conflict of worldviews from the perspective of communities of faith that struggle with secularist influences and pressures. Its purpose is to promote scholarly reflection on the challenges posed by secularism to people of faith, and the ways that communities of faith respond to these challenges. This tension is examined in the domains of law and public policy, economics, science, and cultural institutions. The conference considers faith and the challenges of secularism in the United States, in Europe, and in certain non-Western and developing nations. In keeping with a commitment to promote a vigorous and informative exchange of ideas, the James Madison Program, together with the Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania and the Providence Forum, brings together distinguished scholars and religious leaders representing a range of important perspectives on questions of faith. Discussions are structured to provide participants with opportunities to engage in sustained and civil debate.