Recognizing Religion in a Secular Society

Recognizing Religion in a Secular Society: Essays in Pluralism, Religion, and Public Policy

Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Recognizing Religion in a Secular Society
    Book Description:

    Contributors include Iain T. Benson, executive director, Centre for Cultural Renewal; Jean Bethke Elshtain, Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, University of Chicago; H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr, professor of philosophy, Rice University and professor emeritus, Baylor College of Medicine; Douglas Farrow; William Galston, professor, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland; The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, PC, chief justice of Canada; David Novak, J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies and professor of philosophy, University of Toronto; Margaret Somerville, Samuel Gale Professor of Law and Professor, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University; and Prince El Hassan bin Talal, chairman of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7236-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. In Place of a Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)

    “There has been a tendency since World War II to relegate religion to the private sphere; to suggest that it should have as little as possible to do with economic, social, and political life. This approach appeared to succeed for a time. But religion, in my opinion, cannot be confined indefinitely to the private sphere…*

    It is possible in principle to make distinctions between those things that belong to the temporal order and those that pertain to the spiritual order, but in practice – in actual relations between human beings – that is not the way the problem poses itself....

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-2)

    “Recognizing religion in a secular society,” unlike the similar sounding title used by Bryan Wilson in the sixties, is a deliberately ambiguous turn of phrase. It might be a plea or even a demand. It might be a warning or perhaps an accusation. It might simply be a task, whether interesting or onerous. In this book it is all of the above, as you will see soon enough – with the exception, we think, of the onerous. Here is a concise and potent set of essays by influential theorists and practitioners who find their subjects anything but onerous.

    Their expertise,...

  6. 1 Religion in the Public Realm
    (pp. 3-11)

    Modernity, on some accounts, would permanently remove religion from the public square. Even when we try to balance religion with other participants in the public realm, we often do so with the assumption that religion per se shares nothing, as an idea or even as an experience, with the pluralism, liberalism, and secularism that are regarded as the mutually defining criteria of modern democratic societies. Globalism, too, has sometimes been approached through concepts that have tended to relegate religion to the sidelines or to a past era. Thus religion is seen as neither good nor bad but, rather, as irrelevant...

  7. 2 Freedom of Religion and the Rule of Law: A Canadian Perspective
    (pp. 12-34)

    Learned in the humanities and the law, René Cassin was a distinguished jurist, a visionary statesman, a committed supporter of French language and culture, and an advocate and pioneer in the emerging field of human rights.¹ Cassin’s academic interests were international in scope and humanistic in nature. As a professor at the University of Paris, he published extensively on a broad range of legal topics, including contracts, immigration, equality, and human rights.

    But Cassin’s commitment to justice and the rule of law did not end at the classroom door, nor was it bound to the pages of legal journals. As...

  8. A Response to Chief Justice McLachlin
    (pp. 35-40)

    It is indeed an honour to respond to the Right Honourable Chief Justice. I learned a great deal reading her paper.* What I will bring to these brief reflections is a sensibility honed in a country, the United States, whose point of origin is inseparable from political liberty and the free exercise of religion; in a time, the immediate post-Second World War era, when one of the monstrous totalitarianisms of the twentieth century lay in ruins and the West, led by the United States, was engaged in a long, twilight struggle against the second; and in a faith, Christianity, that...

  9. 3 Religion and the Limits of Liberal Democracy
    (pp. 41-50)

    Consider the familiar phrase “liberal democracy.”¹ The noun denotes a particular way of exercising public power; the adjective, a set of limitations on the exercise of that power. More broadly, the phrase directs our attention to two distinct dimensions of legitimate power: structure and scope. From this standpoint, government acts wrongly when it exceeds the scope of its rightful authority, even if the decision by which it does so is made in accordance with procedures that pass the test of structural legitimacy.

    There are several possible ways of understanding the limits on the scope of authority. The most familiar is...

  10. 4 Human Dignity and the Social Contract
    (pp. 51-68)

    To locate the original justification of a society in an agreement between its equal members has long been known as the idea of “the social contract.” It is a highly attractive idea, as evidenced by the amount of discussion it has evoked for at least the past 400 years, especially during the past thirty years or so, ever since the publication of the most widely discussed work of political philosophy since John Stuart Mill’sOn Liberty;namely, John Rawls’sA Theory of Justice, first published in 1971. Many contemporary political thinkers in democratic societies, who are loyal to their societies...

  11. 5 Persons, Politics, and a Catholic Understanding of Human Rights
    (pp. 69-82)

    Human beings are soft-shelled creatures. All bodies are fragile. But some bodies in some circumstances are more vulnerable than others.

    In Argentina, during its period of the so-called “dirty war” in the late seventies and early eighties, young people were the most vulnerable, the most likely to be “disappeared” – a horrible and dreaded word that then entered the political vocabulary as part of the gallery of horrors of human mistreatment of other humans. Young men were the most vulnerable of all. Over two-thirds of the “disappeared” were men.

    Those who rose to protest these disappearances were women, Las Madres,...

  12. 6 Considering Secularism
    (pp. 83-98)

    In a recent decision the majority judges of the Supreme Court of Canada determined that the common usage of “secular” to indicate “non-religious” is, for the purposes of law, erroneous.¹ The court held that the secular sphere must not be deemed to exclude religion and must allow scope for consciences animated by religious conviction as well as those that are not.² Its reasoning in this decision is compatible with the following analytical framework: though the secular overlaps with the religious, the secular state does not have jurisdiction over the religions, just as the religions, though they are active in the public...

  13. 7 Birth, Death, and Technoscience: Searching for Values at the Margins of Life
    (pp. 99-115)

    We humans have always formed our most important values and sought meaning in life by weaving a metaphorical fabric around the two marker events of every human life: birth and death. Our perceptions of birth, and the values traditionally attached to it, are being challenged and changed, however, by the new technoscience. The “new genetics” debate is the context in which that is occurring. There is also a companion debate about euthanasia,¹ focusing on the values that should govern death. While euthanasia is not a new issue, the current debate is of a different order (it is widespread in Western...

  14. 8 Taking Moral Difference Seriously: Morality after the Death of God
    (pp. 116-139)

    The search for a first-order consensus is at best the pursuit of a mirage. The lack of consensus on issues bioethical spans the field of medicine from the beginning of human life, through health care allocation, to death. In contrast to a supposedly emerging secular “consensus,” traditional Christians,¹ among others, oppose artificial insemination by donor, denounce pre-natal diagnosis and abortion, and hold physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia to be deeply morally misguided.² Confronted with such foundational disagreement, rather than searching for moral consensus it would be more honest and prudent to acknowledge the force and intractable character of moral diversity and...

  15. 9 Of Secularity and Civil Religion
    (pp. 140-182)

    InBeyond IdolsPrinceton sociologist of religion Richard Fenn offers a vision of secular society as a society characterized above all by its resolute openness. Such a society – which has never yet existed but is promisingly hinted at in Canada, for example – is devoted to the immanent rather than the transcendent, to the temporal rather than the eternal, indeed to the temporary rather than the permanent. It is not a society that rejects the Sacred but only the sacred. That is, it understands the Sacred as “pure potential” and rejects any attempt to fix it, to manage it,...

  16. Postscript
    (pp. 183-188)

    InPublic Religions in the Modern World, José Casanova questions the secularization thesis of Wilson and, indeed, of Mills and Marx and Durkheim and Weber. Who, he asks, still believes the founding myth of sociology, the myth of secularization?¹ There has been a long and complex process of differentiation between the religious and the secular spheres – between the church, on the one hand, and the state, the economy, and the sciences on the other, not to speak of education and the arts – which has led to the autonomy of the latter and the disestablishment of the former in...

  17. Contributors
    (pp. 189-190)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 191-196)
  19. Index
    (pp. 197-201)