Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
The Rise of Secularism | Righting America

by William Trollinger

Picture of advertisement for lecture about the rise of secularism in America with a picture of a broken stone cross in front of a marble background.
Poster for the October 5, 2020 Hesburgh Lecture, “The Rise of Secularism in America.”

Over the past few years I have been involved in a project of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at University of Southern California focused on the growing number of Americans who no longer affiliate with a religious tradition. It has been a terribly enjoyable project, and not only or even primarily because I got to spend time on the gorgeous USC campus and enjoy outdoor dinners near the ocean. What has made this project so gratifying is that I have had the chance to get to know and learn from top-notch scholars in gerontology, history, philosophy, political science, psychology, sociology, and theology, all of us working to understand what is producing religious non-affiliation, as well as what the “rise of the nones” means for individuals, as well as the impact of religious non-affiliation on civic and religious institutions in the United States.

The book that grows out of this project, Empty Churches: Non-Affiliation in America (edited by Jan Stets and James Heft), comes out from Oxford next February. But before then is “The Rise of Secularism in America,” which takes place at 7 pm this Monday. This virtual session is hosted by the McGowan Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility at King’s College (PA), and features three of us involved in the Empty Churches project. 

Presenting “The Rise of Secularism” is David Campbell, Packey J. Dee Professor of American Democracy and chair of the Political Science Department at the University of Notre Dame. Campbell’s books include American Grace: How Religion Unites Us and Divides Us, co-written with sociologist Robert Putnam, and the forthcoming Secular Surge: A New Fault Line in American Politics.

I am the respondent to Campbell’s paper. Serving as moderator is Bernard Prusak, Director of the McGowan Center as well as Professor of Philsophy at King’s. Prusak is a frequent contributor to Commonweal and America, and his books include Parental Obligations and Bioethics: The Duties of a Creator and Catholic Moral Philosophy in Practice and Theory: An Introduction.

You are welcome to join us for what promises to be a very interesting paper and conversation. If you are interested, here is registration information. Hope to “see” you there!