[lit-ideas] Re: Reason and Politics

  • From: Phil Enns <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 01 Nov 2006 08:54:39 -0400

Walter Okshevsky wrote:

"Xians, and others, believe that a liberal state constitutionally enshrines
the right to freedom of religion precisely because one of its fundamental
tenets is that the believer is not required "to make the case for one's
beliefs before all people." The rights of religious groups (be they in the
minority or majority) are not parcelled out in accordance with the truth of
their beliefs - a truth they need to make a case for through public
argument. To so require the believer is precisely to violate her right to
religious freedom."

The duty to make the case for one's beliefs before all people is not an
epistemic obligation but arises from the pragmatics of participating in the
public sphere.  The right to freedom of religion is granted by the state
insofar as religious beliefs play a role in society.  To invoke this right
is at the same time to invoke all the privileges and responsibilities that
come with participating in society.  One of those responsibilities is that
when one is acting in the public realm, one be prepared to give reasons for
those actions to anyone who shares that realm.  The others need not be
convinced, only addressed as fellow citizens.

Walter continues:

"Xians don't find that "minimal degree of consensus" in the public sphere
and, again, claim they are not required to do so by a liberal state"

This is contradictory.  To invoke the idea of the liberal state and the
right to freedom of religion is to draw on a minimal degree of consensus in
the public sphere.

Walter again:

"For the Xian, it is precisely this type of secular humanist ideology that
the majority is trying to force down their throats; a form of compulsion
especially egregious when forming part of the curriculum of public schools.
It is that ideology, she continues, with its false universalization of
principles of autonomy and critical thinking that is responsible for denying
Xians their right to act on the belief that the truth rests in Xian
Scripture and must be accepted and abided by through the grace of faith."

People can, of course, make all sorts of claims without being right.  The
account I am giving regarding freedom of religion has its roots in the
radical Reformation, and runs counter to any secular humanist ideology.
Further, this account takes freedom of religion as having only a very narrow
scope of application, the holding of religious beliefs in the public sphere,
and a single purpose, peaceful social order.  The objections given above
function as poor instances of engaging in public discourse, aiming to
influence others.


Phil Enns
Glen Haven, NS
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