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Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:

International Law and Religion: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives (Koskenniemi et al., eds.)

One of our Center’s areas of focus, and an area of expertise developed by my colleagueInternational Law Mark, is law and religion from a comparative and international perspective. Here’s a new collected volume co-edited by the renowned scholar of international law, Martin Koskenniemi, on the subject. The publisher is OUP and the description is below.

This books maps out the territory of international law and religion challenging received traditions in fundamental aspects. On the one hand, the connection of international law and religion has been little explored. On the other, most of current research on international legal thought presents international law as the very victory of secularization. By questioning that narrative of secularization this book approaches these traditions from a new perspective.

From the Middle Ages’ early conceptualizations of rights and law to contemporary political theory, the chapters bring to life debates concerning the interaction of the meaning of the legal and the sacred. The contributors approach their chapters from an array of different backgrounds and perspectives but with the common objective of investigating the mutually shaping relationship of religion and law. The collaborative endeavour that this volume offers makes available substantial knowledge on the question of international law and religion.

Christianity and Family Law: An Introduction (Witte & Hauk, eds.)

From the indefatigable John Witte of Emory University School of Law comes this new, co-edited volume concerning Christianity and family law, a subject of continuing Wittecomplexity and relevance in constitutional law and elsewhere. The volume is organized as a series of reflections about the writings of specific Christian thinkers on the family–from Moses all the way to Jean Bethke Elshtain. The publisher is CUP and the description is below.

The Western tradition has always cherished the family as an essential foundation of a just and orderly society, and thus accorded it special legal and religious protection. Christianity embraced this teaching from the start, and many of the basics of Western family law were shaped by the Christian theologies of nature, sacrament, and covenant. This volume introduces readers to the enduring and evolving Christian norms and teachings on betrothals and weddings; marriage and divorce; women’s and children’s rights; marital property and inheritance; and human sexuality and intimate relationships. The chapters are authoritatively written but accessible to college and graduate students and scholars, as well as clergy and laity. While alert to the hot button issues of sexual liberty today, the contributing authors let the historical figures speak for themselves about what Christianity has and can contribute to the protection and guidance of our most intimate association.

Duquesne Law School Symposium on Truth, Law, and Public Discourse

Here is a conference that may be of interest to some readers:

Duquesne University School of Law is hosting a Symposium prompted by the current state of American public life entitled, “Shall These Bones Live?: Resurrecting Truth in American Law and Public Discourse” on November 16-17, 2017. The Symposium co-convenors are Bruce Ledewitz, Duquesne Law School, and Heidi Li Feldman, Georgetown University Law Center. The Symposium keynote will be given by Louise Antony, professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Other speakers are Justin Dyer, director of the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri, Lawrence M. Solan, Brooklyn Law School, Alina Ng, Mississippi College School of Law, and Brad Wendel, Cornell Law School. A short description follows.

From fake news to alternative facts, the American people have lost faith that institutions and leaders tell the truth and have even lost faith in what truth is.  Inconsistent narratives circulate among opposing groups that have little to do with each other, leading to mutual incomprehension, condescension and, sometimes, hatred.  This Symposium will consider the idea of truth, within law and without, and the depth of the current crisis of truth in American public life. The speakers will consider how realism can be reintroduced into law practice, law school teaching and political debate.

The Symposium is available for three CLE ethics credits for those attending and will be livestreamed. Papers will be published in the Duquesne Law Review. More information is available at www.duq.edu/law/resurrectingtruthcle.

Manne, “The Rise of the Islamic State”

9781633883710From Prometheus, here is a new study of ISIS’s motivating ideology by Australian scholar Robert Manne (La Trobe University): The Mind of the Islamic State: ISIS and the Ideology of the Caliphate. Manne, a political scientist at La Trobe University in Melbourne, traces the roots of ISIS to earlier Islamic groups like al-Qaeda. Here’s the description from the Penguin Random House, the distributor:

In the ongoing conflict with ISIS, military observers and regional experts have noted that it is just as important to understand its motivating ideology as to win battles on the ground. This book traces the evolution of this ideology from its origins in the prison writings of the revolutionary jihadist Sayyid Qutb, through the thinking of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who planned the 9/11 terrorist attack, to today’s incendiary screeds that motivate terrorism via the Internet.

Chief among these recent texts are two documents that provide the foundation for ISIS terrorism. One is called The Management of Savagery, essentially a handbook for creating mayhem through acts of violence. The other is the online magazine of horror called Dabiq, which combines theological justifications with ultraviolent means, apocalyptic dreams, and genocidal ambitions. Professor Manne provides close, original, and lucid readings of these important documents. He introduces readers to a strange, cruel, but internally coherent and consistent political ideology, which has now entered the minds of very large numbers of radicalized Muslims in the Middle East, North Africa, and the West.

However disturbing and unsettling, this book is essential reading for anyone concerned about terrorist violence.

 

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Crane, “The Meaning of Belief”

9780674088832-lgAmerican progressives increasingly argue that religion is simply a type of ideology, and that, as a result, it should receive no more respect in our law than other sorts of ideological commitments. But religion, as the West traditionally has understood it, is something more than ideology, especially in its corporate, identitarian aspects. The law traditionally has given special protection to religion exactly because it is not an ideology like any other. A new book from Harvard University Press, The Meaning of Belief: Religion from an Atheist’s Point of View, by Tim Crane (Central European University) attempts to explain the unique aspects of religion to atheists, who otherwise might fail to understand the force of the worldview they reject. Here’s the description from the Harvard website:

Contemporary debate about religion seems to be going nowhere. Atheists persist with their arguments, many plausible and some unanswerable, but these make no impact on religious believers. Defenders of religion find atheists equally unwilling to cede ground. The Meaning of Belief offers a way out of this stalemate.

An atheist himself, Tim Crane writes that there is a fundamental flaw with most atheists’ basic approach: religion is not what they think it is. Atheists tend to treat religion as a kind of primitive cosmology, as the sort of explanation of the universe that science offers. They conclude that religious believers are irrational, superstitious, and bigoted. But this view of religion is almost entirely inaccurate. Crane offers an alternative account based on two ideas. The first is the idea of a religious impulse: the sense people have of something transcending the world of ordinary experience, even if it cannot be explicitly articulated. The second is the idea of identification: the fact that religion involves belonging to a specific social group and participating in practices that reinforce the bonds of belonging. Once these ideas are properly understood, the inadequacy of atheists’ conventional conception of religion emerges.

The Meaning of Belief does not assess the truth or falsehood of religion. Rather, it looks at the meaning of religious belief and offers a way of understanding it that both makes sense of current debate and also suggests what more intellectually responsible and practically effective attitudes atheists might take to the phenomenon of religion.

Larson & Ruse, “On Faith and Science”

980dfd8b0364028103664dfafe2235cbOne of the themes we’ve been discussing in the Tradition Project is the relationship between tradition and reason. Since the Enlightenment, the West has distinguished the two. Tradition is the language of faith, mystery, and reaction; reason, of science, empiricism, and progress. If you think about it for a moment, though, you see tradition and reason are deeply related. Tradition relies on reason and real-world facts, and science is impossible except within a tradition of thought. That so many of us today assume that tradition is simply a matter of darkness and unreason reflects how successful Enlightenment thinkers were at demonizing it.

The relation of faith and science is explored in an interesting-looking new book from Yale University Press, On Faith and Science, by historian and law professor Edward Larson (Pepperdine) and historian of science Michael Ruse (Florida State). Here is the description from the Yale website:

A captivating historical survey of the key debates, questions, and controversies at the intersection of science and religion

Throughout history, scientific discovery has clashed with religious dogma, creating conflict, controversy, and sometimes violent dispute. In this enlightening and accessible volume, distinguished historian and Pulitzer Prize–winning author Edward Larson and Michael Ruse, philosopher of science and Gifford Lecturer, offer their distinctive viewpoints on the sometimes contentious relationship between science and religion. The authors explore how scientists, philosophers, and theologians through time and today approach vitally important topics, including cosmology, geology, evolution, genetics, neurobiology, gender, and the environment. Broaching their subjects from both historical and philosophical perspectives, Larson and Ruse avoid rancor and polemic as they address many of the core issues currently under debate by the adherents of science and the advocates of faith, shedding light on the richly diverse field of ideas at the crossroads where science meets spiritual belief.

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Rasmussen, “The Infidel and the Professor”

k11092Earlier this year, while doing research for a forthcoming essay on the doux commerce thesis, I came upon Dennis Rasmussen’s excellent introduction to Smith and Rousseau, The Problems and Promise of Commercial Society (2008). Rasmussen, an associate professor of political science at Tufts, does a wonderful job showing the often overlooked similarities between those two Enlightenment figures, and he writes in a clear, unaffected style that many academics fail to achieve. So I’m looking forward to his new book from Princeton, The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought. The tensions in classical liberalism are becoming more apparent every day; its purported neutrality with respect to Christianity and other revealed religion, especially, seems more and more problematic. It is therefore worthwhile to go back to the beginning, to see whether liberalism has gone off the track in our era or is simply fulfilling its destiny.

Here’s a description of the new book from the Princeton website:

The story of the greatest of all philosophical friendships—and how it influenced modern thought

David Hume is widely regarded as the most important philosopher ever to write in English, but during his lifetime he was attacked as “the Great Infidel” for his skeptical religious views and deemed unfit to teach the young. In contrast, Adam Smith was a revered professor of moral philosophy, and is now often hailed as the founding father of capitalism. Remarkably, the two were best friends for most of their adult lives, sharing what Dennis Rasmussen calls the greatest of all philosophical friendships. The Infidel and the Professor is the first book to tell the fascinating story of the friendship of these towering Enlightenment thinkers—and how it influenced their world-changing ideas.

The book follows Hume and Smith’s relationship from their first meeting in 1749 until Hume’s death in 1776. It describes how they commented on each other’s writings, supported each other’s careers and literary ambitions, and advised each other on personal matters, most notably after Hume’s quarrel with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Members of a vibrant intellectual scene in Enlightenment Scotland, Hume and Smith made many of the same friends (and enemies), joined the same clubs, and were interested in many of the same subjects well beyond philosophy and economics—from psychology and history to politics and Britain’s conflict with the American colonies. The book reveals that Smith’s private religious views were considerably closer to Hume’s public ones than is usually believed. It also shows that Hume contributed more to economics—and Smith contributed more to philosophy—than is generally recognized.

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