On April 30, 2014, Dr. Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, held a seminar on “Religious Freedom – Secular, Spiritual, Public” at our university [Russia’s National Research Nuclear University MEPhI]. At the beginning of the seminar, he noted that NRNU MEPhI is a good model of how to overcome the existing problems of religion in the field of science and business. [MEPhI has just launched a Theology Department, opened a chapel for students, and encouraged application of theology and ethics to professional and scientific life (see post).] In turn, Rector of the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI Mikhail Strikhanov confirmed the relevance of the event and emphasized the importance of the relationship between science and religion, especially in the field of education of young people.
The first part of the seminar “Evolving Religion and Growing Restrictions on Religion” provided an overview of the world’s religious and non-religious populations. First, Brian Grim talked about his research, in which the first question is the idea of religion in general.
He studied the opinion of people in most countries of the world, learning what is meant by this concept; collected and accumulated qualitative and quantitative data, which made it possible to draw interesting conclusions (for example, that Christianity is currently not a predominantly European religion and there is a clear relationship between religion and population), as well as predict the future of religion in general. The question of the difference between the concepts of “religious identity” was discussed, “religious nationalism” and “religious fanaticism”, an analysis was made of the reasons for the increase in restrictions on religion at the government level, as well as the number of religious social conflicts taking place around the world, as well as the lessons to be learned from the events of the “Arab spring”.
In the second part of the seminar “Secular – Spiritual Formulations of Religious Freedoms” the similarities and differences of these formulations were considered.
And the third part of the event was devoted to the discussion of pragmatic formulations of religion and freedom of worship. Religious economics theory, and more recent work in this area, has focused on how religious freedom is linked to a range of social and economic benefits. The workshop participants discussed the strengths and weaknesses of this approach and tried to answer the question: is religious freedom a cause or a consequence of positive social and economic outcomes or simply relates to them. The last issue under consideration concerned the study of the consequences of religious freedoms for politics, social institutions and business, if religious freedom is indeed interconnected with socio-economic outcomes.