The seminar gathered some of the most eminent scholars of contemporary religious thought, including Amy Hollywood (Harvard), Kathryn Tanner (Yale), William Cavanaugh (DePaul), Sarah Coakley (Cambridge), Eric Gregory (Princeton), and Rowan Williams (Cambridge), and examined the relevance of the ancient tradition of negative theology for modern debates over the relationship between religion and politics.
Whereas many political theorists assume that religion intervenes politically by asserting its authority, the seminar participants explored the way in which theology can function critically, and thus open up the possibility of political transformation.
Andrew Prevot of Boston College said, "It was an incredible few days--one of the most stimulating academic events I have ever attended."
Those in attendance agreed that bringing ancient theological practices of negation into contact with contemporary political questions is enormously fruitful.
Martin Kavka of Florida State University added, "In addition to ensuring a good balance of participants in terms of rank, gender, race, rank, and sexual orientation ... the papers, the responses, and the exchanges in discussion were always of incredibly high value."
Atheism and Christianity: Moving Past Polemic aims to promote a fruitful conversation between atheism and Christianity by exploring the common ground between them. The project team includes four researchers from ACU’s Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry, two postdoctoral research fellows, and three international collaborators from Yale and KU Leuven.
The next Rome seminar to be held as part of this research project will take place in August 2018. It will explore the diverse motivations of different forms of atheism, including ethics, politics, and experience. In addition, the research project will hold a public event in Melbourne on 3 April 2018, which will bring together a diverse group of scholars to reflect upon what difference atheism and faith make to the way in which they think about death.