Another reason is that, due to the nature of religious belief itself, if any kind of belief is inappropriate for public deliberation, then religious beliefs will be the prime candidate, either because they are irrational, or immune to critique, or unverifiable, etc. In other words, religion provides a useful test case in evaluating theories of public deliberation. Since citizens have sharp disagreements on comprehensive doctrines, any law or policy that necessarily depends on such a doctrine could not be reasonably accepted by those who reject the doctrine.
A prime example of a justification for a law that is publicly inaccessible in this way is one that is explicitly religious. For example, if the rationale for a law that outlawed working on Sunday was simply that it displeases the Christian God, non-Christians could not reasonably accept it. Since only secular reasons are publicly accessible in this way, civic virtue requires offering secular reasons and being sufficiently motivated by them to support or oppose the law or policy under debate. Religious reasons are not suitable for public deliberation since they are not shared by the non-religious or people of differing religions and people who reject these reasons would justifiably resent being coerced on the basis of them.
Others try to show that religious justifications can contribute positively to democratic polities; the two most common examples in support of this position are the nineteenth-century abolitionist movement and the twentieth-century civil rights movement, both of which achieved desirable political change in large part by appealing directly to the Christian beliefs prevalent in Great Britain and the United States.
A third inclusivist argument is that it is unfair to hamstring certain groups in their attempts to effect change that they believe is required by justice. Many—though not all—who defend the pro-life position do so by appealing to the actual or potential personhood of fetuses. Consequently, on some versions of exclusivism, citizens who wish to argue against abortion should do so without claiming that fetuses are persons. To ask them to refrain from focusing on this aspect of the issue looks like an attempt to settle the issue by default, then.
Instead, inclusivists argue that citizens should feel free to introduce any considerations whatsoever that they think are relevant to the topic under public discussion. Even the most secularized countries Sweden is typically cited as a prime example include substantial numbers of people who still identify themselves as religious.
These people are often given substantial democratic rights, sometimes including formal citizenship. And the confrontation between radical Islam and the West shows few signs of abating anytime soon. Consequently, the problems discussed above will likely continue to be important ones for political philosophers in the foreseeable future.
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Christopher Callaway Email: ccallaway sjcme. Religion and Politics The relation between religion and politics continues to be an important theme in political philosophy , despite the emergent consensus both among political theorists and in practical political contexts, such as the United Nations on the right to freedom of conscience and on the need for some sort of separation between church and state. Establishment and Separation of Church and State While the topic of establishment has receded in importance at present, it has been central to political thought in the West since at least the days of Constantine.
A church may be supported through taxes and subject to the direction of the government for example, the monarch is still officially the head of the Church of England, and the Prime Minister is responsible for selecting the Archbishop of Canterbury. Particular ecclesiastical officials may have, in virtue of their office, an established role in political institutions.
A church may simply have a privileged role in certain public, political ceremonies for example, inaugurations, opening of parliament, etc.
Toleration and Accommodation of Religious Belief and Practice As European and American societies faced the growing plurality of religious beliefs, communities, and institutions in the early modern era, one of the paramount social problems was determining whether and to what extent they should be tolerated. Liberalism and Its Demands on Private Self-Understanding In addition to examining issues of toleration and accommodation on the level of praxis , there has also been much recent work about the extent to which particular political theories themselves are acceptable or unacceptable from religious perspectives.
Religious Reasons in Public Deliberation One recent trend in democratic theory is an emphasis on the need for democratic decisions to emerge from processes that are informed by deliberation on the part of the citizenry, rather than from a mere aggregation of preferences.
References and Further Reading Audi, Robert. Religious Commitment and Secular Reason. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Audi, Robert, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. An accessible, well-reasoned exchange between an inclusivist Wolterstorff and an exclusivist Audi , with rebuttals.
My review of Irving Goh’s book, The Reject
Bellah, Robert N. Brighouse, Harry. School Choice and Social Justice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Portions of this book deal with education for autonomy and religious opposition to such proposals. Oxford: Clarendon Press, An exploration of civic education in light of Rawlsian political liberalism. Carter, Stephen L. New York: Basic Books, Clanton, J. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, Coleman, John A. Christian Political Ethics.
A collection of essays on political topics from a wide array of Christian traditions. Cuneo, Terence, ed. Religion in the Liberal Polity. A collection of essays on religion, rights, public deliberation, and related topics. Dagger, Richard. De monarchia. Prue Shaw. Book 3 of this work concerns the relation and division between Church and State.
Eberle, Christopher J. Religious Convictions in Liberal Politics.
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Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, A thorough critique of the varieties of exclusivism. Eliot, T.
London: Faber and Faber, Gaus, Gerald F. London: Routledge, Greenawalt, Kent. Religious Convictions and Political Choice. Private Consciences and Public Reasons. Gutmann, Amy. Democratic Education. Identity in Democracy. Includes a helpful chapter on religious identity in politics. Hobbes, Thomas. Edwin Curley. Kymlicka, Will. Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction. A fine introduction to the field, useful for beginners but detailed enough to interest experienced readers. Larmore, Charles. Patterns of Moral Complexity. Locke, John. A Letter Concerning Toleration.
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