Religion and Conflict: Alternative Visions

The Religion and Conflict: Alternative Visions speaker series brings nationally and internationally recognized experts to campus to address the sources and dynamics of conflict and strategies for its resolution.

APR 2021

A joint event of the ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and The George Washington University Project on Ethics in Political Communication

 President Biden campaigned on the theme of restoring the soul of America—an idea he repeated during his inaugural address. But what exactly does this mean? In many ways, Biden was evoking American “civil religion” —an idea that has received renewed attention and criticism. For some Americans, civil religion offers a means for achieving national unity and a shared sense of moral purpose. For others, civil religion raises questions about religious and political freedom, concerns about “Christian nationalism,” and fears about American exceptionalism and national hubris. With legitimate criticisms and competing visions of America playing out in academia, media, government, and in our streets and public squares, the nation is grappling with a central question of our day: Do Americans still have faith in democracy?  

Can the Soul of the Nation Be Saved?

Join us for this moderated discussion among scholars, practitioners, and journalists. Together, we will explore principles, practices, and critiques associated with American civil religion, including prospects for its future in U.S. politics and government. At a time when democracy is under duress in the United States and around the world, sustaining citizens’ faith in democracy remains a vital challenge. Key questions include:

  • What is American civil religion? What sources does it draw from? And why should citizens care?
  • What role does civil religion play in the president’s call to restore the nation’s soul and heal its divisions?
  • In practical and strategic terms, how does civil religion figure into our political life, from campaigns and elections to governing and legislating?
  • How can we promote civil religion when loyalty to the U.S. has, in the past, been used to target certain minority communities? 
  • Can we imagine a civil religion that encompasses different faiths, traditions, histories, and visions for America?

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About the speakers:

  • André Gonzales is a staff assistant in the United States Senate, a 2019 Truman Scholar and a current Truman-Albright Fellow with the Harry S. Truman Foundation. In 2016, Gonzales was elected as one of the youngest delegates to attend the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and since then, has regularly found himself at the intersection of politics, policy, advocacy, and media both in New Mexico and in the nation's capital. As a recent graduate of The George Washington University and recipient of the Manatt-Trachtenberg Prize for Social and Intellectual Conscience, André is focused on addressing educational equity throughout New Mexico by creating longstanding partnerships between local, state, federal, tribal, nonprofit, and private stakeholders.
  • Peter Loge is associate professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University, where he leads the Project on Ethics in Political Communication. Before joining GW, Loge worked for over 25 years in communications and political strategy, including a presidential appointment at the Food and Drug Administration and senior positions with members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. He was vice president at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) from 2013-2015, where his portfolio included congressional relations, intergovernmental affairs, and the Global Peacebuilding Center. He regularly lectures on politics and lobbying and provides analysis and commentary for a variety of national media outlets.
  • Nichole R. Phillips (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) is director of the Black Church Studies Program and associate professor in the practice of sociology of religion and culture at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University and a senior faculty fellow at the Emory Center for Ethics. Her research interests lie at the intersection of religion and American public life. With an emphasis on the moral commitments and vision of community and congregational members, her scholarship engages religion, critical race, gender, and cultural memory studies. Her most recent book is Patriotism  Black and White: The Color of American Exceptionalism (2018), and she is currently developing a new research project on the sociology of science and religion funded by Templeton Religion Trust. 


  • Rozina Ali is a fellow at Type Media Center. Her reporting and essays on the Middle East, the war on terror, and Islamophobia in the United States have appeared in The New YorkerForeign Affairs, The Nation, the GuardianNew York Times, Al Jazeera America, Foreign Policy, and others. She was on the editorial staff of The New Yorker from 2015 to 2019, and was previously a senior editor at the Cairo Review of Global Affairs based in Cairo, Egypt.

OCT 2020

Who Killed Truth?

A conversation with Jill Lepore

Today, we witness a striking indifference to and obfuscation of truth. In parts of government, the media, and other key sectors of culture, the imperative to seek and tell truth is often ignored, even viewed with contempt. But was this always the case? How did we come to find ourselves in this "post-truth" moment?

Watch this conversation with Jill Lepore as she delineates key moments in American history that shape our understandings of truth today.

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About the speaker:

Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University. She is also a staff writer at The New Yorker, and the host of the podcast, The Last Archive. A prize-winning professor, she teaches classes in evidence, historical methods, humanistic inquiry, and American history. Much of her scholarship explores absences and asymmetries in the historical record, with a particular emphasis on the history and technology of evidence. As a wide-ranging and prolific essayist, Lepore writes about American history, law, literature, and politics. She is the author of many award-winning books, including the international bestseller, These Truths: A History of the United States (2018). Her latest book, IF THEN: How the Simulmatics Corporation Invented the Future, will be published in September 2020.

SEPT 2020

Telling the Truth in Black and White: Religion and Racial Injustice in the United States

A conversation with Robert P. Jones and Angela Sims

The United States is reckoning with its racist past and present. Police violence against Black Americans has generated massive protests to end racial injustice and systematic inequality. The recent removal of Confederate statues and symbols, including in Arizona, reminds us of the nation’s longtime devotion to a cause rooted in white supremacy and enforced through slavery, segregation, lynching, and other violence. To this day, Black Americans continue to experience ongoing injustices of redlining, housing discrimination, racial profiling, and unequal access to employment, education, and health care.

In this moment of national introspection, we ask: What roles has religion played in America’s history of white domination and the struggle for racial justice? How has Christianity in particular provided theological foundations for white supremacy and anti-Black violence? How has it inspired efforts to combat racism and promote human equality? How do we reckon with religion’s racist sins while preserving its capacity to inspire hope, resist injustice, and foster renewal?

Watch the panel discussion of these and other questions with Robert P. Jones and Angela Sims, moderated by John Carlson

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About the panelists:

  • Robert P. Jones is CEO and founder of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). He is a leading scholar and commentator on religion, culture, and politics and writes regularly for The Atlantic, NBC, and other outlets. He is frequently featured in national media, such as CNN, MSNBC, NPR, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. He is the author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity and The End of White Christian America. He also serves on the program committee of the American Academy of Religion.
  • Angela Sims is the first female president of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. A renowned womanist scholar and a member of the National Baptist denomination, her research and writing examines connections between faith, race, and violence, with specific attention to historical and contemporary implications of lynching and a culture of lynching in the United States.Sims is the author of Lynched: The Power of Memory in a Culture of Terrorand co-author of several books, including Religion-Political Narratives in the United States: From Martin Luther King, Jr. to Jeremiah Wright.
  • John Carlson (Ph.D. University of Chicago) will serve as moderator for the event. Carlson is interim director of the ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and an associate professor of religious studies. A scholar of religious ethics, his research explores how religious and moral inquiry informs and invigorates our understanding of political life. He has written on issues of war and peace, religion and violence, justice and human rights, democracy and civic life, and a variety of social and political issues, both domestic and international. Carlson is coeditor of, and contributor to, three books--From Jeremiad to Jihad: Religion, Violence, and America; Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call for Reckoning; The Sacred and the Sovereign: Religion and International Politics—and is the author of over twenty-five book chapters and articles. He is principal investigator (with Tracy Fessenden) for a project funded by the Henry Luce Foundation on “Recovering Truth: Religion, Journalism and Democracy in a Post-Truth Era,” which will be launching in Spring 2020, and is also co-directing a project on “Religion and Global Citizenship” with Linell Cady.

SEPT 2020

Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times

A conversation with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, an international religious leader, philosopher, award-winning author and respected moral voice is joined by directors of four academic centers at Arizona State University for a dynamic livestream conversation centered around the release of his latest book "Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times". While lamenting the cultural and political forces that have divided Britain, America and the wider world, Rabbi Sacks presents a remarkable vision of hope for the future. Watch as top scholars at ASU engage in meaningful discussion with one of the world’s leading public intellectuals to discuss topics around morality, religion and politics, featuring John Carlson (Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict), Paul Carrese (School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership), Paul Davies (Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science), Hava Tirosh-Samuelson (Irving and Miriam Lowe Professor of Modern Judaism and director of Jewish Studies), and moderated by Pauline Davies (Hugh Downs School of Human Communication).

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Complete Archive

Date Title Speaker Links
APR 2021 Can the Soul of the Nation Be Saved? André Gonzales
Peter Loge
Nichole R. Phillips
Rozina Ali 
FEB 2021 Are We One Country or Two? A Conversation about Reconciliation with David Blight David W. Blight  Video
NOV 2020 Righteous Reckoning: Religion and the 2020 Election Anthea Butler
Sarah Posner
OCT 2020 Who Killed Truth? Jill Lepore Video
SEPT 2020 Telling the Truth in Black and White: Religion and Racial Injustice in the U.S. Robert P. Jones
Angela Sims 
SEPT 2020 Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks Video
OCT 2019 Targeting the Sacred: When Houses of Worship Come Under Attack Anand Gopal
Yolanda Pierce
Brette Steele 
MAR 2019 Religion, Nationalism, and the Future of Democracy Peter Beinart Video
SEPT 2018 Religion, Journalism, and Democracy Daniel Burke Video
MAR 2018 Sex and American Christianity: The Religious Divides that Fractured a Nation Marie Griffith Video
JAN 2018 Religion and Politics in the Era of Trump: Two Views from the White House Melissa Rogers
Peter Wehner
OCT 2017 500: The Protestant Reformation and the Modern World Susan Schreiner
Daniel Philpott
Tracy Fessenden
FEB 2017 Religion and Democracy in a New Global Era Shadi Hamid Video
OCT 2016 Presidential Politics and the Making of American Identity Laura Olson
Edward Curtis
Robert P. Jones
FEB 2016 What Citizens Owe Strangers: Human Rights, Migrants and Refugees Michael Ignatieff
JAN 2016 The Future of Faith Harvey Cox
OCT 2015 Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence Karen Armstrong
FEB 2015 Neuroscience and the Religious Imagination David Eagleman
OCT 2014 The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism Andrew J. Bacevich
FEB 2014 Sectarianism, Secularism and Statehood: Challenges and Change that Shape the Middle East Rami Khouri
OCT 2013 God is Not One: Religious Tolerance in an Age of Extremism Stephen Prothero
JAN 2013 The Longest War: America, Al Qaeda, and the Middle East Peter Bergen
OCT 2012 Saints, Sinners and Power: The Role of Religion in a Secular Government James Morone
FEB 2012 Beyond Belief Elaine Pagels
OCT 2011 Beyond Fundamentalism Reza Aslan
MAR 2011 Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women Are Transforming the Middle East Isobel Coleman
OCT 2010 From Tea Parties to Textbooks: Religion, Politics, and the Struggle for American Identity James Davison Hunter
Alan Wolfe
APR 2010 India After Gandhi: Nonviolence and Violence in the World's Largest Democracy Ramachandra Guha
MAR 2010 The Evolution of God Robert Wright
OCT 2009 Real Conflicts and Imagined Threats: Religion, Politics, and the Future of the Middle East Rami Khouri
MAR 2009 The Clash Within: Religion, Pluralism, and the Future of Democracy Martha Nussbaum
OCT 2008 Run for the White House: Religion, Race, Gender, and the Media Diane Winston
Eddie Glaude
MAR 2008 The Battle for Baghdad: What the Outcome will mean for America, Iraq, and the World John F. Burns
OCT 2007 Two Steps Toward Hell: The Scare-Mongers, the Caliphate, and Islamofascism Michael F. Scheuer
MAR 2007 Islamic Ethics and Gender: Towards an Ethics of Compassion Amina Wadud
OCT 2006 Religion and American Foreign Policy Jack Miles
SEPT 2006 American Gospel Jon Meacham
APR 2006 Are We Losing Our Humanity?: C.S. Lewis on Moral Conflict Jean Bethke Elshtain
MAR 2006 Interpreting Islam: Politics, the Media and the Academy Carl Ernst
OCT 2005 Terrorism and the Future of Peacemaking Marc Gopin
MAR 2005 Religion, Terrorism & Human Rights Sidney Jones
FEB 2005 Arab-Israeli Peace: Is it Possible? How Do We Get There? Aaron David Miller
OCT 2004 Islamic Democracy and the Future of Iraq Noah Feldman
OCT 2004 The Global Rise of Religious Violence: The Case of South and Southeast Asia Mark Juergensmeyer
OCT 2004 The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace Dennis Ross
SEPT 2004 Religion and the 2004 Presidential Election E.J. Dionne
MAR 2004 When Religion Becomes Evil Charles Kimball
FEB 2004 Reading Lolita in Tehran: Women, Religion and Global Politics Azar Nafisi
OCT 2003 Abraham: A Journey to the Hearts of Three Faiths Bruce Feiler
MAR 2003 The Rise of Religious Terrorism Peter Bergen