Fall 2014

Religion, Secularity, and Toleration


One of the great differences between earlier civilizations and our own post-modern world is that the former emphasized a comprehensive truth without a comprehensive tolerance, whereas the latter honours an allencompassing tolerance owing, at least in part, to its lack of conviction in any all-encompassing truth. What, if any, is the place of religion in public and political life and institutions? Should the citizens of a modern liberal democracy keep secular and religious considerations wholly and entirely separate? Are religion and modern secularity in some way necessarily related? Is it appropriate for religious concerns to find a voice and to be heard in the public sphere? Some maintain that religious voices are not only appropriate in public discourse, but are indeed indispensable to the vitality of a pluralist constitution. Others point to the legacy of the Enlightenment and insist that religion is an intrinsically private matter, and that therefore it cannot lay a rightful claim to be heard in the public sphere. Our general question for this term’s series of public lectures is 'What is the place of religion in the public sphere?'

PDF icon Religion, Secularity, and Toleration poster


Dr. Arvind Sharma

Birks Professor of Comparative Religion, McGill University: Religious Tolerance Revisited

Mayyada Kheir

Centre d’Etudes Interdisciplinaires des Faits Religieux, Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris: At the root of French public discourse on church and state: the vocabulary of laïcité

Professor John Joseph Collins

Yale University: Torah and Jewish Identity in Second Temple JudaismNon-Mosaic Forms of Judaism in the Second Temple Period

Douglas Farrow

Kennedy Smith Chair in Catholic Studies, McGill University: Justin Trudeau and the doctrine of double truth

Elizabeth Shakman Hurd

Associate Professor of Political Theory, Northwestern University: Beyond Religious Freedom: Religion, rights and the politics of religious difference

Daniel Cere

Associate Professor of Religious Ethics, McGill University: Accomodating Religion? Perspectives from the Canadian Liberal Tradition

Armando Salvatore

Keenan Professor of Interfaith Studies, McGill University: Legitimating the expression of faith in the public square