by Jim Patterson
Respect for a variety of religious traditions is growing in America, but that welcome development holds potential pitfalls for democracy, believes a Princeton University sociologist set to speak at Vanderbilt.
Robert Wuthnow, the Gerhard R. Andlinger ’52 Professor of Sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton, will speak at 7:30 p.m. March 23 in Vanderbilt’s Benton Chapel. His talk is titled “In America, All Religions are True: Implications of the New Pluralism for Democracy.”
The lecture is free and open to the public. It serves as the Vanderbilt Center for the Study of Religion and Culture Annual Spring Lecture and the 2006 Vanderbilt Divinity School Howard L. Harrod Lecture.
One of the ways Americans deal with potential religious conflicts is to keep their own values a private matter, Wuthnow said. Many now treat their religious convictions as a personal path to peace of mind instead of divine truth for the whole world.
“Think how effective Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been had he expressed his arguments about civil rights simply as personal opinions that he happened to hold by virtue of being African American,” Wuthnow said. “That would have relativized his arguments to the point that opponents of civil rights could have simply said they held different opinions.”
Wuthnow, a leading sociologist of religion, has written more than 20 books, including America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity and After Heaven: Spirituality in America Since the 1950s.
The Center for the Study of Religion and Culture Annual Spring Lecture brings scholars doing creative and distinguished work at the intersection of religion and culture to Vanderbilt. Howard L. Harrod taught for more than 30 years at Vanderbilt, and the annual lecture was established in his name to honor his legacy of scholarship and university service.
Audio of the lecture will be available on VUCast at www.vanderbilt.edu/news.