Religion and Civil Society
Spheres of Freedom and Religion
This subproject attempts to examine the ways in which religion, in spite of the ways it has posed a threat to personal freedom, also has the potential to underpin human freedom and to protect it against the totalitarian claims of political leaders and institutions. Religion has the potential to strengthen civil society, which in turn, as Alexis de Tocqueville so eloquently argued, serves as an essential buffer between the individual and the potentially overbearing State.
This subproject aims to understand the religious experience on its own terms, from the standpoint of religious believers and communities, and with that understanding in mind, to come to a more complete and informed understanding of the potential contribution of religion to a free society. Questions to be studied include: (1) the place of the individual conscience in the social-political order; (2) the proper relation between religious communities and communities defined by the State or the nation; (3) the normative idea of a de-centered Republic as a political space protecting freedom, even religious freedom; (4) the formation of the idea of religious toleration.
Thereby, this subproject is developed in two researchs: