Rice University’s Religion and Public Life Program is shaping our understanding of the role of religion in public life today. By bringing together scholars who study religion, religious leaders from different traditions, and students and community members from a variety of backgrounds and with diverse religious perspectives, the RPLP facilitates productive conversations about religion not only within the academy, but between the academy and the broader public. A relatively new program, the RPLP was launched in 2010 as part of the Social Sciences Research Institute at Rice University. The program is directed by Elaine Howard Ecklund, professor of sociology and Rice scholar in the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.
Although rhetoric involving religious issues—including evolution, embryonic stem cell research, immigrant rights, and religious expression in politics and business—is often divisive, religion does not necessarily provoke conflict, and in fact religious convictions have in some contexts given rise to advances in science and the expansion of human rights and strengthening of communities. The RPLP strives to advance understanding that resolves conflict and strengthens civil society through three primary avenues: cutting-edge research initiatives, public events, and student training and mentoring.