Terror, Religion, and Liberal Thought

Terror, Religion, and Liberal Thought

Richard B. Miller
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/mill15098
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  • Book Info
    Terror, Religion, and Liberal Thought
    Book Description:

    Religious violence may trigger feelings of repulsion and indignation, especially in a society that encourages toleration and respect, but rejection contradicts the principles of inclusion that define a democracy and its core moral values. How can we think ethically about religious violence and terrorism, especially in the wake of such atrocities as 9/11?

    Known for his skillful interrogation of ethical issues as they pertain to religion, politics, and culture, Richard B. Miller returns to the basic tenets of liberalism to divine an ethical response to religious extremism. He questions how we should think about the claims and aspirations of political religions, especially when they conflict so deeply with liberal norms and practices, and he suggests how liberal critics can speak confidently in ways that respect cultural and religious difference.

    Miller explores other concerns within these investigations as well, such as the protection of human rights and a liberal democratic commitment to multicultural politics. In relating religion and ethics, he develops a new lens for viewing political religions and their moral responsibilities. This probing inquiry also forces us to rethink our response to 9/11.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52186-4
    Subjects: Religion, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 THE PROBLEM OF RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE
    (pp. 1-17)

    Reports of religious violence are often met with incomprehension. For many of us, violent religious zealots seem fanatical to the extreme, fueled by ethnic, tribal, racist, or national antipathies that border on the pathological. Whether such persons act within regimes of toleration or in illiberal contexts, they seek to impose their visions with brute force and fail to grasp the benefits of peaceful coexistence wrought by respect for individual rights, pluralism, and religious liberty.¹ For citizens who enjoy such benefits, appeals to religion to authorize indiscriminate killing and seething intolerance are abominable, beyond understanding. The fact that individuals find personal...

  5. 2 9/11 AND VARIETIES OF SOCIAL CRITICISM
    (pp. 18-44)

    Discussions of Islam and terrorism often aim to contextualize Muslim radicalism and render it intelligible. They speak to the incomprehension that follows upon religious violence. Here I want to examine four arguments—historical, economic, relativist, and internalist—that aim to help us grasp the relationship between the Islamic tradition and terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11. These arguments deploy one or another interpretive framework for “imagining religious terrorism,” to paraphrase Jonathan Z. Smith. They try to make sense of what seems incomprehensible by invoking frameworks, contexts, or parallel examples in comparative ways. When confronted by what is unusual or incongruous,...

  6. 3 RIGHTS TO LIFE AND SECURITY
    (pp. 45-66)

    Readers of the last chapter might draw the following conclusion: social criticism launched from one or another historical line of inquiry—whether we are examining the social sources internal to a tradition or material interests that condition the conduct of its adherents—inevitably leads to a cul-de-sac in which we end up talking to (and about) ourselves.¹ Such seems to be the trajectory in the previous chapter insofar as it begins with social criticism of a historical sort and ends by examining forms of relativist and internalist commentary. On that inference, the effort to think about Islamic extremism in a...

  7. 4 TOLERATION, EQUALITY, AND THE BURDENS OF JUDGMENT
    (pp. 67-83)

    Earlier, I stated that Muslim (and other) extremists should respect basic rights of life and security even if they don’t endorse the visions or ways of life that those rights function to protect. That claim invites us to consider connections between acts of religious violence and religious intolerance. Violence that targets victims on the basis of their creed or religious heritage obviously disregards the lives of the individuals so targeted; it also expresses intolerance of those victims’ tradition, community, or worldview. As I noted earlier, we object to terrorism because it targets persons on the basis of who they are...

  8. 5 RESPECT AND RECOGNITION
    (pp. 84-99)

    One of my aims in this book is to make sense of the idea that moral indignation felt in response to an atrocity can be connected to the idea of respect for persons and their inherent dignity. Advancing that aim was the main goal of chapter 3. I have also said that persons who grossly violate basic rights such as respect for persons do not deserve the kind of sentiments or attitudes that recognition typically requires.¹ That statement is more complicated than it might first appear. It trades on two assumptions along with an ambiguity that we do well to...

  9. 6 RELIGION, DIALOGUE, AND HUMAN RIGHTS
    (pp. 100-119)

    My argument on behalf of rights to life and security is tied to the value of human dignity and the norm of respect for persons. That norm lies behind the idea that all persons have a prima facie right to be left alone, to be free from acts that arbitrarily threaten to seriously compromise personal freedom and the infrastructural conditions that enable us to deliberate about and pursue our visions of the good. In liberal thought, the value of human dignity is attached to our capacities as moral subjects, as persons with the ability to order our actions toward ends...

  10. 7 LIBERAL SOCIAL CRITICISM AND THE ETHICS OF BELIEF
    (pp. 120-131)

    The norms of respect for human dignity and equal liberty enable liberal social critics to assess radical Islam and its connection to the events of 9/11 along with other political religions and similar movements that seek to disrupt peaceable formations of public life. At a minimum, those norms provide a basis for determining whether religious and cultural traditions are regressive or progressive when they claim to resist power structures and social practices. More generally, an ethics of belief that builds on liberal commitments invites us to reconsider what I have called the priority of religion to ethics.¹ That priority would...

  11. APPENDIX 1: THE RIGHT TO WAR AND SELF-DEFENSE
    (pp. 132-142)
  12. APPENDIX 2: IS ATTACKING THE TALIBAN AND AL QAEDA JUSTIFIED?
    (pp. 143-180)
  13. NOTES
    (pp. 181-214)
  14. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 215-222)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 223-228)