In recent years, the role of religion as lived in America today has fascinated outside observers from secular countries. The ongoing internal debate about religion, atheism and politics in America captivates our attention but how is America unusually religious, unusually diverse religiously, and yet unusually tolerant? In most countries, intense religiosity combined with stark religious differences equals wars, violence, and civil disorder. How come this has not happened in the US?

Leading US political scientist Robert Putnam draws on the two most comprehensive surveys ever conducted on religion and public life in America (specially commissioned for his book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us with co-author David Campbell of Notre Dame University), and in a dozen in-depth portraits of diverse congregations he examines the complex interaction of religion and politics over the past half-century. He provides a balanced and considered counterweight to the polemical rhetoric of how religion both contributes to and detracts from the vibrancy and stability of American democracy.

Professor Putnam was a Visiting Professor at the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

Co-presented with Sydney Ideas at the University of Sydney.