Religious Freedom as the Cornerstone of the Western World

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This lecture event is part of the 11th Annual Kościuszko Chair Spring Symposium in honor of Lady Blanka Rosenstiel sponsored by the Kościuszko Chair in Polish Studies and the Center for Intermarium studies. Lady Blanka Rosenstiel and the American Institute of Polish Culture (AIPC) established the Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies at IWP in 2008. The Kościuszko Chair serves as a center for Polish Studies in the broadest sense, including learning, teaching, researching, and writing about Poland's culture, history, heritage, religion, government, economy, and successes in the arts, sciences, and letters, with special emphasis on the achievements of Polish civilization and its relation to other nations, particularly the United States. We remain grateful for Lady Blanka’s leadership in founding this Chair at IWP. About the lecture: Today's crisis in Europe and the Western world is, above all, a religious crisis. We live nowadays in times of unusually fierce religious intensification. It holds not only to Islam; instead to various contemporary ideologies and social movements, which religious or quasi-religious characters can be seen easily in their missionary zeal. In Europe and also America, a religious war takes place - a war of life and death. It is not a conflict between religious and non-religious people, but a clash of Christianity – or rather, what remains of it – and Neopaganism. Rivalry with Islam is here of secondary significance. A question arises concerning the proper shape of the political order: is it at all possible for individuals and communities, differing in religion – and if so, then how – to live together in peace and harmony within the framework of one political organism? The proper answer was brought to the world by Christianity: the common life of different communities will be possible if we reject the program of forceful conversion, guaranteeing everybody the right to religious freedom instead. Here religious freedom is understood as freedom to practice one's religion, openly express one's most profound religious beliefs and take action in the public space, motivated by these beliefs. Still, an opposite interpretation of the idea has been widespread – the idea of freedom from religion behind which hides a program for the expulsion of all religious signs and symbols referring to the transcendent dimension of human existence from public space. Which of the two visions of organizing public life wins? The future shape of the Western world depends on the response to this question. About the speaker: Zbigniew Stawrowski (born 1958 in Szczecin, Poland) is a political philosopher, professor at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw and the director of the Tischner Institute in Cracow. He is the author of Państwo i prawo w filozofii Hegla [The State and its Rights in the Philosophy of Hegel] (1994), Prawo naturalne a ład polityczny [Natural Law and Political Order] (2006), Niemoralna demokracja [Immoral Democracy] (2008), Solidarność znaczy więź [Solidarity means a Bond] (2010), Wokół idei wspólnoty, [Concerning the Idea of Community] (2012).

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