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Religion, Civil Religion and the Common Good

20 June 12

20 - 21 June 2012, Centre for the Study of Religion, Conflict and Cooperation/Centre for Contemporary Aristotelian Studies in Ethics and Politics, London Metropolitan University

1. Introduction
2. Objectives and Conference Structure
3. Confirmed Keynote Speakers
4. Submissions
5. Draft Programme Details

1. Introduction


Secularization was once presumed progressively to marginalize religion. Now, religious actors successfully refuse political marginalization. Some do so because they believe that modern, western individualism is contrary to the common good; others, because they believe it important to promote the idea of a common good of rights-bearing citizens. Without an idea of the common good, it is claimed, we risk the dismantling of welfare, or even of society. Where the state was often deified as the guarantor of a common good, the concept is now being reclaimed by more traditional, including religious, proponents. Nonetheless, the term – common good – is seldom clearly defined, whether in theological, political or philosophical discourse. Often, it is identified with the public interest or reduced to the aggregation of individual utilities or choices. When it is defined more substantively, it invariably proves contentious.

The conference seeks to engage with the issue of civil religion and the common good. Rousseau coined the phrase ‘civil religion’ in The Social Contract. There, he sets out what he sees as the core features of a civil religion: the existence of God, the life to come, the reward of virtue and the punishment of vice, and the exclusion of religious intolerance. Beyond this, all other religious opinions are outside the cognisance of the state and may be freely held by citizens. To what extent, if at all, does a conception of civil religion exist in modern, democratic societies? To what extent, if at all does the concept of civil religion connect to the common good? To what extent is it possible to define and operationalise ‘civil religion’ and the ‘common good’ in modern, diverse, plural societies?

The two-day conference will focus on the following issues:

  • What is the common good?
  • How, if at all, can religions contribute to the common good?
  • What may be learned about the common good from Catholic, Protestant, Judaic or Islamic traditions, or from any past or present theorist?
  • How are disputes about the common good best resolved?
  • Does the very fact of religious pluralism entail that religion is now more an obstacle than an impetus to the common good?
  • How might particular communities or subsidiary institutions contribute to a wider common good?
  • What are the prospects — in local communities, in the British state, and elsewhere — of actualizing the common good?

The conference is organized jointly by the Centre for the Study of Religion, Conflict and Cooperation and by CASEP, the Centre for Contemporary Aristotelian Studies in Ethics and Politics. It will be held in London Metropolitan University's Faculty of Law, Governance and International Relations at 16 Goulston Street, London, E1 7TP.

2. Objectives and Conference Structure

‘Religion, Civil Religion, and the Common Good’ seeks to examine the sometimes ambivalent roles of religious ideas, leaders, organisations and communities in public life. Examining the attitudes of and involvement in public life of religious leaders and religious communities in the UK and elsewhere towards the goal of the ‘common good’ constitutes a new and forward-looking perspective, which the international conference will project and pursue. Overall, it is expected that the conference will serve as a trigger for new impulses both for essential academic research and for new government initiatives. The conference will also raise public awareness, in London, the UK and beyond, about the resources that religious leaders and communities can bring to bear in the pursuit of the ‘common good’.

‘Religion, Civil Religion, and the Common Good’ is designed as an interdisciplinary forum for both academic discourse and public debates. Keynote addresses, expert panel discussions, and considered views of practitioners and government figures will take place over two days, 20-21 June 2012. The overall aim is to cover various notions of civil religion and the common in the context of a postsecular environment where numerous religious communities now seek to make their way in diverse and plural religious and political environments. As such, it welcomes papers from underrepresented groups in academia and the wider community.

3. Confirmed Speakers

Wednesday 20th June

Prof. Ronald Beiner (University of Toronto)
Prof. Timothy Chappell (Open University)
Dr Patrick Riordan .S.J (Heythrop College, University of London)

Thursday 21st June

Prof. Brian Girvin (Glasgow University)
Prof. Jeremy Carrette (University of Kent)
Lord Maurice Glasman of Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill (London Metropolitan University)

4. Submissions

We invite submissions from across disciplines including, but not limited to, philosophy of religion, moral and political philosophy, political science, and sociology of religion. Papers from under - represented groups in academia and the wider community are welcome.

Proposals of papers should consist of a title, a 150 - 250 word abstract, and the author's name and full contact information. Proposals for complete panels are encouraged.

Deadline: 1st March 2012. Early submissions are especially welcome

Conference fee: £60 (£35 for one day. Concessions available.

Please submit proposals (in MS Word or PDF) or queries to k.redgrave@londonmet.ac.uk

5. Draft Programme Details

Wednesday 20th June 2012

09.00 - 10.15



Welcome Remarks

Professor Malcolm Gillies,
Vice - Chancellor, London Metropolitan University



Dr Patrick Riordan
Heythrop College, University of London

'Talk of the Common Good: Promises and Prospects'



Prof. Tim Chappell
University of Toronto

'Delivering Goods'

12.30 - 13.30



Panel 1


Panel 2

15.30 - 16.00

Tea and Coffee


Panel 3



Prof. Ronnie Biener
University of Toronto

'Secularism as a Common Good'

18.00 - 18.30

Drinks Reception


Speakers Dinner

Thursday 21st June 2012

09.30 - 10.30

Registration and Coffee



Lord Glasman of Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill,
London Metropolitan University

'Faith, Citizenship and the Politics of the Common Good'



Prof. Jeremy Carrette
University of Kent

Topic: TBA

12.30 - 13.30



Panel 4



Prof. Brian Girvin
University of Glasgow

'Religion, Liberalism and the Search for a Common Good'

15.30 - 16.00

Tea and Coffee


Panel 5


Panel 6


Closing Remarks

Professor Jeff Haynes, London Metropolitan University


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