Debates are raging today about the role of religions in public life, and it is not difficult to see why.
To begin with, religions – Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and so on – are growing numerically, and their members worldwide are increasingly unwilling to keep their convictions and practices limited to the private sphere of family or religious community. Instead, they want these convictions and practices to shape public life. They may engage in electoral politics and seek to influence legislative processes (as the Religious Right has done in the United States ever since the Reagan presidency), or they may concentrate on transforming the moral fabric of society through religious awakening (as the Religious Right seems to be doing during the Obama presidency). Either way, many religious people aim to shape public life according to their own vision of the good life.
Moreover, in today’s globalized world, religions cannot be neatly sequestered into separate geographic areas. As the world shrinks and the interdependence of people increases, ardent proponents of different religions come to inhabit the same space. But how do such people live together, especially when all of them want to shape the public realm according to the dictates of their own sacred texts and traditions?