The first time, you don’t notice. The second time, you start to pay attention. By the third time, you can’t help but see a pattern. Three times here at the Forum 2000 Conference, other participants – not, I hasten to say, the other participants on my panels – have asked me, very politely and sincerely, “Why are you interested in law and religion?” The tone of the question is curiosity more than anything else: whatever would make you devote your time to this topic? Now, you might think, this is normal chit-chat among academics at conferences, like “where do you teach?” I have to say, however, that when I’ve attended past conferences in Europe to speak about private international law, no one asked me a similar question. And I’ve never been asked the question in American academic settings. No: religion, here, seems different. There has to be a particular explanation, a reason beyond ordinary academic interest, why someone would make this the subject of his work. It reminded me of something the French sociologist Danièle Hervieu-Léger once wrote.  If you study religion in France, she observed, everyone immediately asks you if you’re religious – the implication being, if you invest so much time in the subject, you must have a personal interest. No offense taken, of course. It’s a legitimate question, and all the more credit to the Forum 2000 organizers for making law and religion a theme for the conference. But the question does stand out. Perhaps the question reflects the fact that secularism is the default option for many European intellectuals. – MLM

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