Fall 2013: God and Culture

Secular and the Religious Good in Civil Society

The first amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America prohibits any law respecting an establishment of religion or impeding the free exercise of religion.  And yet, American civil society is saturated with anti-religious and religious sensibilities that often frame religious and secular goods as mutually subjugating.  This quarter’s lecture series will attempt to disrupt this polarizing frame.

Violent Religion or the Sacred State? Violence, Idolatry, and Religion in Civil Society

by William Cavanaugh |

November 12, 2013 | 4 – 5:15 p.m.

St. Clare Room, Library and Learning Commons

A common notion in Western countries is that religion is prone to violence, so we must privatize religion and give our loyalty to the neutral and secular nation-state. What happens when loyalty to the nation becomes a kind of religion? In this lecture, Professor Cavanaugh will sort through these different claims and argue that there is no essential difference between “secular” violence and “religious” violence.

William Cavanaugh is Senior Research Professor and Director of the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology at DePaul University. He received a B.A. in theology from Notre Dame in 1984 and an M.A. from Cambridge University in 1987. After working as a lay associate with the Holy Cross order in Santiago, Chile, he began working at the Center for Civil and Human Rights at the Notre Dame Law School. He then studied at Duke University, where he received a Ph.D. in religion in 1996. He has published numerous articles and five books, most recently The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict (Oxford, 2009) and Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church (Eerdmans, 2011). His books have been published in six different languages.

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