Religion and Society

Religion, ethics, and culture are at the core of our world. Faith has a crucial part to play in solutions to the problems we face today. It highlights greater ideas: community, shared ideals, and moral values. Therefore it is not simply ‘religion’ that has a role to play but identity, in which ethics and culture are embedded. Defining our identity in an increasingly interconnected world is difficult. Lost amidst a community of over seven billion members, we tend to retreat into smaller, more manageable groups of religious or moral intent. However, these tend to divide and create ‘the other’, fostering confrontation.

During the first term our policy centre will focus on the role of the state in the 21st century. Criticised for its alternatively little or excessive zeal in dealing with internal and foreign crises, the state’s roles in integration and humanitarian intervention have yet to be clearly defined. Tackling extremism is also key to both themes and involves components of religion but also the ethical questions of punishment, freedom of speech, faith, and privacy. However, rather than relying on merely traditional means of surveillance and punishment, it is important to understand and shape the cultural elements behind radicalization, including why otherwise neutral communities tolerate the presence of extremist groups. Recently, we have seen how migration crises and state interventions in foreign affairs are deeply linked, both also raising serious ethical and practical questions.

Similarly, the role of the state in humanitarian intervention lacks clarity. The traditional military humanitarian intervention has not solved the crises of the Middle East, Myanmar, Venezuela, or insecurity in African countries. Our aim is to draw on religion, ethics, and culture to devise policies that are country-specific and can provide a long-term solution.

Throughout the second term we will examine the impact of religion and culture on modernisation. Globalisation has impacted virtually every nation on earth, yet many societies appear alarmed at the liberalising tendencies of this development and consequently exhibiting active resistance. In India, for instance, attempts to advance rights or simply increase food security in certain regions are often confronted with deep-set traditions. Policies should examine these practices and aim to slowly adapt them for a more efficient society, maximizing economic output and societal well-being. Our aim for ‘forces behind modernization’ is to create policies that identify what negatively impacts development, and outline states’ roles in foreign development.

If you are interested in our vision and want to contribute to our work through devising policy and research papers, please do not hesitate to contact us at

We look forward to hearing from you!

Emma Shleifer
Religion, Ethics, & Culture Policy Centre President