It was once said that as societies develop, religion disappears. This myth has now been debunked, as the persistence of modern religious belief attests; however, it remains unresolved how religion should enter into our secular spaces of public discourse within the media, civil society and government. In a country that has defined itself by values of pluralism and religious freedom, the exclusion of religion from all public discourse would be simplistic and inconsistent with our heritage. Our challenge is to foster a new spirit of civility and reconciliation within an increasingly diverse society, where we can speak openly together about our beliefs, values and principles and how they relate to the common good.
This conference will explore the role of religion in Canada's public discourse, in terms of both thought and action. To many observers it appears that our national discourse is increasingly polarized and the civility of democratic deliberation is eroding. Fundamentalisms of many stripes - ideological, religious, and secular - can drown out the more moderate and considered voices. Within this context, how should perspectives that draw from religion inform the national conversation? How do we judge the legitimate - and illegitimate - role of religion in our public discourse? How can engagement by religious voices make positive contributions to our pursuit of the common good for all Canadians? Where does responsibility rest for changing the current state of affairs? These are questions that call for reflection on both values and practice, as we explore together how to bridge the secular divide.
This McGill-hosted conference is organized in conjunction with national religious leaders from across Canada, and includes a distinguished line-up of speakers from the world's religious traditions which can be consulted from http://www.bridgingthedivide.ca/program/. We are also happy to announce special pricing for student participants.