Does the toleration of liberal democratic society mean that religious faiths are left substantively intact, so long as they respect the rights of others? Or do liberal principles presuppose a deeper transformation of religion? Does life in democratic society itself transform religion? In Making Religion Safe for Democracy, J. Judd Owen explores these questions by tracing a neglected strand of Enlightenment political thought that presents a surprisingly unified reinterpretation of Christianity by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson. Owen then turns to Alexis de Tocqueville's analysis of the effects of democracy on religion in the early United States. Tocqueville finds a religion transformed by democracy in a way that bears a striking resemblance to what the Enlightenment thinkers sought, while offering a fundamentally different interpretation of what is at stake in that transformation. Making Religion Safe for Democracy offers a vel framework for understanding the ambiguous status of religion in modern democratic society.
J. Judd Owen is Associate Professor of Political Science, an associated faculty member in the Department of Religion, and Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, Atlanta. He has held fellowships with the National Endowment for the Humanities and with the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Religion and the Demise of Liberal Rationalism (2001) and the coeditor of Religion, Enlightenment, and the New World Order (2010). His articles have appeared in the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Politics, and Perspectives on Politics.