The New Religious Intolerance

The New Religious Intolerance: overcoming the politics of fear in an anxious age

Martha C. Nussbaum
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The New Religious Intolerance
    Book Description:

    Drawing inspiration from philosophy, history, and literature, Martha C. Nussbaum takes us to task for our religious intolerance, identifies the fear behind it, and offers a way past fear toward a more equitable, imaginative, and free society, through the consistent application of universal principles of respect for conscience.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06591-8
    Subjects: Religion, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. 1 Religion: A Time of Anxiety and Suspicion
    (pp. 1-19)

    Once, not very long ago, Americans and Europeans prided themselves on their enlightened attitudes of religious toleration and understanding. Although everyone knew that the history of the West had been characterized by intense religious animosity and violence—including such bloody episodes as the Crusades and the Wars of Religion, but including, as well, the quieter violence of colonial religious domination by Europeans in many parts of the world, domestic anti-Semitism and anti-Catholicism, and culminating in the horrors of Nazism, which implicated not only Germany but also many other nations—Europe until very recently liked to think that these dark times...

  5. 2 Fear: A Narcissistic Emotion
    (pp. 20-58)

    Without fear, we’d all be dead. The Greek philosopher Pyrrho, who claimed he had exorcised that disturbing emotion, led a very weird life, as legend has it. Without constant aid from his friends, who followed him around all day, he would have walked off cliffs and fallen into wells.¹ He wasn’t much use to others, either. Once, when he saw his friend Anaxarchus fall into a swamp, he walked on by without giving him any help—apparently failing to comprehend the nature of his friend’s predicament.² But just as clearly, fear can be a source of unreliable and erratic behavior....

  6. 3 First Principles: Equal Respect for Conscience
    (pp. 59-97)

    How can we best address the current climate of fear? A good approach has three ingredients: good principles, an emphasis on non-narcissistic consistency, and a cultivation of the “inner eyes,” the capacity to see the world from the perspective of minority experience.

    Why principles? Given the distracting and distorting potential of fear, which can so easily render particular judgments self-serving and unreliable, it seems a good idea to approach these delicate and complicated issues armed with some general principles that we can cling to as we attempt to avoid confusion and panic. If these principles are to help us address...

  7. 4 The Mote in My Brother’s Eye: Impartiality and the Examined Life
    (pp. 98-138)

    In Plato’s dialogue Euthyphro, Socrates meets Euthyphro in front of the courthouse, where he himself has been replying to the charge that he is a corrupter of the young. What is Euthyphro’s business with the court? Euthyphro explains that he is filing a prosecution against his own father, for the murder of a migrant worker who served on their estate. (Ancient Athens had no public prosecutor. All charges were brought by private individuals, and someone with no relatives around would normally go unavenged.) Aren’t you afraid that it is an offense against the gods to prosecute your own father? asks...

  8. 5 Inner Eyes: Respect and the Sympathetic Imagination
    (pp. 139-187)

    To make good principles real, we need to develop our “inner eyes.” This expression comes from Ralph Ellison’s great novel Invisible Man, which begins as follows:

    I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though...

  9. 6 The Case of Park51
    (pp. 188-239)

    One of the most difficult and divisive issues in recent U.S. debates over religion has been the question of establishing an Islamic-initiated multifaith community center, containing a prayer space, several blocks from “ground zero,” where the devastating 9/11 attacks left an open space that is now, after ten years, being filled by a memorial to the victims of 9/11. From quiet and initially uncontroversial beginnings in early 2009, the Park51 project took on national visibility and became an extremely polarizing issue. Although some progress has been made in recent days toward clarification and reconciliation, the use of the controversy as...

  10. 7 Overcoming the Politics of Fear
    (pp. 240-246)

    Our search for an ethical response to the politics of fear began with Socrates in ancient Athens. Athens was in many ways a great democracy, but its people—therefore its politics—were prone to the appeals of irresponsible demagogues and to the usual human failings of sloppiness, deference to tradition, and selfish partiality. Socrates challenged his culture to lead the “examined life,” creating a democracy that would be thoughtful rather than impetuous, deliberative rather than unthinkingly adversarial. At the same time, he challenged each individual citizen to take charge of his political life, searching for reasons rather than just making...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 247-268)
  12. Index
    (pp. 269-286)