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Boisi Center Discusses the Role of Religion in a Polarized America

The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life hosted R. Ward Holder and Peter Josephson, two professors at St. Anselm College, who spoke on the role religion has played in dividing America on Monday afternoon.

In particular, the speakers compared the philosophies of John Rawls and Reinhold Niebuhr. Rawls’ position was that one must tolerate the views of others, while holding his or her own beliefs in private. Niebuhr believed that people must tolerate the views of others, while still maintaining their Christian views publicly.

The speakers took a position that Rawls’ liberal philosophy is not appropriate for 21st century Christians, and that Reinhold Niebuhr holds a better and more complete view for believers in the new world.

The professors argued that Rawls has helped cause the division in the political sphere because Christians have ceded control to non-believers, especially on issues of morality. Instead of taking a mainstream conservative or liberal stance, they listed a series of issues that they believe are moral concerns to both liberals and conservatives, such as children in cages on the border, climate change, and abortion.

The speakers suggested that placing moral beliefs in one’s hearts instead of expressing them publicly prevents the parties from feeling pressure to act on those moral beliefs, which leads to deprivation and division within a society.

Finally, the speakers stated that in order to have a more unified country, Niebuhr's model must be implemented to give issues greater moral weight. The country will become more united when it recognizes the necessity of religion and morals in government action.

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