Religion & Society Program

The American idea is rooted in a vision that people from varied religious and ethnic backgrounds can unite to create a single nation: E Pluribus Unum. Consistent with that idea, the Religion & Society Program envisions a thriving American religious pluralism, where everyone has the rights, freedoms, and safety to worship, or not, according to their conscience. Religious pluralism isn’t just a nice idea – it’s critical to the health of our democracy and society.

Thus came the Religion & Society Program, launched by the Aspen Institute in 2012, which builds and sustains the field of religious pluralism by supporting faith and civic leaders, encouraging philanthropic giving to the field, and producing resources to help you get involved with religious pluralism.

What is Religious Pluralism and Why is it Important?

Religious pluralism is a vision of the world in which diverse religious communities and non-believers engage each other in beneficial ways, maintain their distinct identities, and thrive and defend each others’ right to thrive.

The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment encapsulates an ideal of religious freedom amid incredible religious diversity. Yet, simply by turning on the news today, it’s easy to see how this ideal is being challenged from many sides. Distrust between and about faith communities is increasing, as are polarization and hate crimes against marginalized and minority faith communities. To achieve the vision of pluralism, we need to do more than simply acknowledge our differences – pluralism requires us to actively engage with, and across, our differences.

We believe religion can be a force for this positive social change, enabling us to understand ourselves and our relationship to one another. With over 75% of Americans claiming a religious affiliation, we believe America’s diverse faith communities can play a key role in fostering pluralism, building bridges across our differences, and supporting a strong civil society and a vibrant democracy.

To make our vision of a thriving religious pluralism a reality, we at the Religion & Society Program are creating a national infrastructure of sustained networks to share learnings across sectors.

We hope you will join us by:

• Staying up-to-date on our work and programs through our website, Twitter, and monthly newsletter
• Reading and sharing our educational resources about religious pluralism, its components, and how faith-based and secular organizations can help strengthen pluralism;
• Supporting members of our Powering Pluralism Network, through which we connect thought leaders, funders, faith leaders, practitioners, and academics in order to build and sustain the components of religious pluralism; and
• Learning more about our funders roundtable and collaborative, the Religious Pluralism Funders Circle, if you work in or with philanthropy.

Religion & Society History