The Common Good

Principled Pluralism: The Challenge Of Religious Diversity In 21st Century America

The past twenty years have seen tremendous engagement around racial, cultural, and gender diversity. Millenials (ages 18-29) are generally knowledgeable about such identity differences and far better equipped to have a respectful, nuanced discussion of these issues than their parents and grandparents.

Can the same be said about religious diversity? At a time when religion fuels numerous conflicts overseas and when religious tensions in the United States appear to be on the rise, what must be done to improve religious literacy and foster inclusive attitudes among America's next generation?

At the Aspen Ideas Festival last week, we discussed this challenge and opportunity in two panels featuring Madeleine Albright, E.J. Dionne, David Gergen, Ingrid Mattson, Eboo Patel, and Jim Wallis. Secretary Albright stressed that the world is watching the United States: interreligious strife at home damages our image abroad. Gergen expressed concern about the widening religious-secular divide, cautioning that a growing overlap between religion and political affiliation contributes to antipathy and dysfunction in Washington. All agreed that in today's increasingly diverse religious landscape--marked by a sharp rise in the religiously unaffiliated (now 20% of Americans and 30% of Millenials)--it is necessary to take a more intentional approach to positively engage matters of religion. We at the Justice and Society Program call this "principled pluralism."