Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Political Science


Political Science 367. Politics and Religion

In liberal democratic societies the state stays neutral to the citizens’ religious orientations. Accordingly, the law is legislated under the condition of separation between church and state. Thomas Jefferson’s Wall of Separation Letter (Jan.1.1802) articulates this point. Religions’ recent resurgence at the global level and in the public sphere, however, poses a threat to the separation clause. How so? Why? And, at what cost for democracy? In order to address these concerns, this course investigates a variety of ideas on the makeup of religion, the nature of politics, and the appropriate pattern of interaction between the two. The path towards such investigation cuts through issues such as the relationship between reason and religion; political theology; the sacred and its political role; tolerance; religious fundamentalism; and political secularism.

As a study in the field of normative political theory, Politics and Religion has a theoretical content which is not specific to a special region or a particular historical phase. Accordingly, its theoretical analyses go beyond the boundaries of a particular nation, and, in that sense, acquire a “transnational” character. The scholars and texts we discuss in this course range from Plato and Socrates of the ancient time to the 20th century German philosophers like Jürgen Habermas and Carl Schmitt; and, from the present-day Islamic thinkers to contemporary American philosophers such as John Rawls, Robert Bella and Richard Rorty. In other words, the theoretical nature of the course transcends historical or geographical scopes.