Headlines, crises, and a diverse cast of characters - how can we make sense of religion's role on the world political stage? Does religion tend to be a force for conflict or peacemaking? When is a conflict (e.g., Northern Ireland's "Troubles") really about religion? Why do states' leaders play the "religion card"? Is the so-called "Islamic State" either Islamic or a state? Are we witnessing a "clash of civilizations"?
To answer such questions, Professor of Political Science Lynda Barrow will explore the trends, theories, assumptions and individuals behind the front-page news. Each session begins with a couple of scenes, specific events that depict key aspects of the nexus between religion and world politics. For instance: How did Bono make Senator Helms cry? Was Pope Pius XII really "Hitler's pope"? Why did Saddam Hussein, a secular ruler, declare a holy war? What is "holy war," anyway?
These scenes are entryways into the bigger picture, including global trends (the waning and waxing of religion's role in politics) as well as globalization, the rise of Islamism, resurgent nationalism, and the "hotter bits" of religion. Since these hotter bits are especially found in Christianity and Islam, discussions will focus on these two world religions and the fault lines within and between them.