Religion and Foreign Affairs
Particularly for practitioners of public diplomacy, understanding the role of religious faith in people’s lives is an essential part of crafting outreach efforts. In much of the world, secularism is viewed warily, seen as weakening the fabric of society, and so a respectful approach to religion is an essential element of diplomacy. Religion is not “mere sociology,” as the CIA reportedly referred to it prior to the 1979 Iranian revolution. Rather, it must be taken seriously as a foundation stone of international relations.
In Religion and Foreign Affairs, editors Dennis R. Hoover and Douglas M. Johnston do a superb job of pulling together many centuries’ worth of literature about this field. From Thucydides and Augustine up through contemporary writers on the topic such as Thomas Farr and Madeleine Albright, the array of authors and topics makes this an indispensable volume for anyone interested in this field.
Among the topics addressed are these:
• The ethics of force. Religious belief does not rule out the use of “hard power,” but such belief does help set standards for justifying and governing use of force.
• Religion and conflict. Religion’s role in stimulating or deterring conflict is seen very differently by writers such as Samuel Huntington and Brian Grim.
• Peacemaking. Religion can strengthen trust among different sides in a peace process.
• Religion, democracy, and the state. Dynamic tension between religious and democratic institutions varies in intensity, depending on the flexibility of the religion and the strength of the institutions involved.
• Globalization, economic development, human rights and other critical issues all are significantly affected by religion.
These issues must be addressed by any nation with a credible foreign policy, but the United States has long had particular difficulty in grappling with them. The separation of church and state is a keystone of domestic political life in the United States, but that principle has also affected U.S. foreign policy. This is unnecessary and unfortunate; it weakens American diplomacy in a world that is moving away from secularization.
This is one of the issues treated with sophisticated comprehensiveness in Religion and Foreign Affairs. This volume an essential handbook for diplomats and anyone else who wants to gain a better understanding of the role of religion in international political life.
Baylor University Press
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