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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Author Meets Critics: "The Religious Test"

Banner for event - president Obama and his family

Damon Linker
Author of The Religious Test and
Contributing Editor of 
The New Republic

Patrick Deneen,
Georgetown University
Mark Silk, Trinity College

Date: Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010
Time: 5:30PM
Location: Higgins 310

Abstract: In a provocative new book entitled The Religious Test: Why We Must Question the Beliefs of Our Leaders, Damon Linker argues that certain elements of religious belief—including radical atheism—may very well be incompatible with high office, and sometimes even active citizenship, in a democracy. Two expert commentators will critique Linker's argument from different perspectives.

headshot of Linker

Damon Linker is a Contributing Editor of The New Republic and a Senior Writing Fellow in the Center for Critical Writing at the University of Pennsylvania. He also blogs about religion, culture, and politics for The New Republic. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Policy Review, The Public Interest, The Review of Politics, The Review of Metaphysics, and the American Behavioral Scientist. From May 2001 to February 2005, he worked at First Things—first as associate editor of the journal, then as its editor. Prior to joining the magazine, he taught political philosophy at Brigham Young University and served as a speechwriter for New York’s Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Linker studied history, philosophy, and writing at Ithaca College, graduating with a BA in 1991. He went on to earn an MA in European history from New York University and a Ph.D. in political science from Michigan State University. Born in New York City, Linker currently lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two children.


In the News:

"Religion in a Centerless Society"

by Damon Linker 9.30.10
The New Republic

In this recent article Linker writes, "as long as the United States remains a liberal nation with a centerless society, traditionalist religion at its peak will fail to harmonize with politics at its peak."

headshot of Deneen

Patrick J. Deneen is Associate Professor of Government and holds the Markos and Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Chair in Hellenic Studies at Georgetown University. His interests include ancient political thought, American political thought, democratic theory, religion and politics, and literature and politics. He is the author of The Odyssey of Political Theory (2000) and Democratic Faith (2005), as well as co-editor of a book entitled Democracy's Literature (2005). He has also published a number of articles and reviews in such journals as Political Theory, Social Research, Polity, Polis, First Things, The Weekly Standard, Perspectives on Political Science, Society, The Hedgehog Review, and Commonweal. He is currently working on a book examining the concept of the division of labor in Western political thought. Deneen was the recipient of the A.P.S.A.'s Leo Strauss Award for Best Dissertation in Political Philosophy in 1995. Prior to joining the faculty at Georgetown he taught from 1997-2005 at Princeton University, where he held the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preceptorship. From 1995-1997 he was Special Assistant and principal Speechwriter for Joseph Duffey, Director of the United States Information Agency. He has presented work and lectured widely, including at such institutions as University of Maryland, University of Virginia, Berry College, University of Chicago, Colby College, Harvard University, Indiana University, Rutgers University, University of Tulsa, Valparaiso University, and Yale University. In 2006 Deneen became the Founding Director of "The Tocqueville Forum on the Roots of American Democracy," an initiative that seeks to preserve and extend understanding of America's founding principles and their roots in the Western philosophical and religious traditions.

headshot of Silk

Mark Silk received his A.B. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. After teaching at Harvard in the Department of History and Literature, he became editor of the Boston Review. In 1987 he joined the staff of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where he worked variously as a reporter, editorial writer and columnist. In 1996 he became the founding director of the Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and in 1998 founding editor of Religion in the News, a magazine published by the Center that examines how the news media handle religious subject matter. In 2005, he was named director of the Trinity College Program on Public Values, comprising both the Greenberg Center and a new Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture. In 2007, he became Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College. Professor Silk is the author of Spiritual Politics: Religion and America Since World War II and Unsecular Media: Making News of Religion in America. He is co-editor of Religion by Region, an eight-volume series on religion and public life in the United States, and co-author of The American Establishment and One Nation Divisible: How Regional Religious Differences Shape American Politics. He blogs at "Spiritual Politics" and on