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Religion’s Refusal to Die

American Enterprise Institute

April 20, 2023

Event Summary

On April 20–21, AEI and the Lefrak Forum cohosted a wide-ranging conference addressing religion’s persisting relevance in modernity’s public and private spheres of life.

The conference commenced on the evening of April 20, with a conversation between Yeshiva University’s Meir Soloveichik and University of Notre Dame’s Patrick Deneen, who debated the extent to which religious communities can flourish within the American tradition of liberalism.

The following day, University of Texas at Austin’s Devin Stauffer and University of Notre Dame’s Vincent Phillip Muñoz discussed Thomas Hobbes’s and James Madison’s understanding of religion’s place, or lack thereof, in a political community. AEI’s Benjamin Storey and St. John’s College’s Michael Grenke considered the religious element of human nature through the dissonant perspectives of Michel de Montaigne, Blaise Pascal, and Friedrich Nietzsche. And St. John’s College’s Allison Levy, University of Florida’s Nathan Pinkoski, and Arizona State University’s Karen Taliaferro explored the inseparability of religion and politics in premodern Greek and Islamic traditions.

The conference concluded on the evening of April 21 with a discussion between AEI’s Robert P. George and Northwestern University’s Andrew Koppelman, focusing on perfectionist and anti-perfectionist theories of liberalism and the state of contemporary legal questions surrounding religious freedom.

—Noah Rosenfield

Event Description

“God is dead”—or so Friedrich Nietzsche famously said toward the end of the 19th century. A century earlier, Jean-Jacques Rousseau observed that “religion, discredited everywhere by philosophy, had lost its ascendancy even over the people.” And yet, with the 21st century well underway, God refuses to die the predicted death. Over the past few years, religion seems to be becoming more—not less—politically relevant. Why has God refused to retreat from the public square, much less die, despite the Enlightenment critique of religion?

Join AEI and the LeFrak Forum for a conference on religion’s resilience and how American civil life can flourish in a country marked by religious belief.

The LeFrak Forum is an independently funded center at Michigan State University for research and debate on the theory and practice of modern democracy.

About the Author

Jenna Siber Storey