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RSRC Public Lecture

Dear All,

The Religion and Society Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney invites you to attend a public lecture:

‘Religion in Modern America: a success story of migration and liberalism ?

Speaker: Professor Bryan Turner, University of Western Sydney, Australia

Date:     Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Time:    1:30 pm – 3:30 pm

Venue: Bankstown Campus, Building 3 Room 55

RSVP to  by 12 July.


It has been a common feature of all discussion of America since Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1840s to note the exceptional importance of religion in American public life. While northern Europe is often seen to be significantly secularized, religion has been important in American public life. Sociologists have defined the Moral Majority as a major ‘public religion’ and others such as Robert Bellah have identified an all-embracing American civil religion. 

But does religion divide or unite society? In recognizing the divisions over race in America, there is a common observation that America is most divided at prayer on a Sunday morning. This observation typically referred to divisions in Christianity, but we could also add other examples from the Nation of Islam. By comparison with Europe, the veil and Shari’a have not been or not remained important. However, there are other spectacular divisions around religion and terrorism – 9/11, Ground Zero, the Boston marathon and so forth. More recently various sociologists have argued that the old religious divisions (Catholic and Protestant, Christian and Jew, Christian and Muslim) are breaking down – most notably Putnam and Campbell in American Grace, Jeff Alexander in The Civil Sphere, and Muhacit Billici in Finding Mecca in America

In this lecture I argue that the growth of no religion, rising inter-racial and inter-faith marriage, the acceptance of same sex marriage in law, the re-election of Obama, and the acceptance of homosexuality in the military may indicate that religion is becoming less significant in public life and less divisive as a result. The growth of the Hispanic population means that Catholicism cannot be ignored by the Protestant majority and at the same time, despite the war on terror and evidence of Islamophobia, Islam is becoming another American denomination.

Professor Bryan Turner is the Director of the Religion and Society Research Centre at the University of Western Sydney and Presidential Professor of Sociology at The Graduate Center at the City University of New York, USA. He has taught at the University of Aberdeen, Flinders University, University of Utrecht, Deakin University, Cambridge University and the National University of Singapore. He is the founding editor of the journals Body&Society, Citizenship Studies and Journal of Classical Sociology, and an editorial member of numerous journals including: British Journal of Sociology, European Journal of Social Theory, Contemporary Islam, Journal of Human Rights and Journal of Sociology.