Areshidze, “Democratic Religion from Locke to Obama”

In June, the University Press of Kansas will release “Democratic Religion from Locke to Obama: Faith and the Civic Life of Democracy,” by Giorgi Areshidze (Claremont McKenna College).  The publisher’s description follows:

Debating or making speeches, American politicians invariably cite tenets of Christian faith—even as they unfailingly defend the liberal principles of tolerance and religious9780700622672 neutrality that underpin a pluralistic democracy. How these seemingly contradictory impulses can coexist—and whether this undermines the religious tradition that makes a liberal democracy possible—are the pressing questions that Giorgi Areshidze grapples with in this exploration of the civic role of religion in American political life.

The early modern Enlightenment political philosophy of John Locke has been deeply influential—if often misunderstood and sometimes contested—in shaping both the theoretical and practical contours of contemporary debates and anxieties about religion in a liberal society. Areshidze demonstrates that Locke anticipated a great theological transformation of Christianity in light of modern rationalism, one that would make Christianity into a tolerant religion compatible with liberal political principles. Locke’s experiment, as this book shows, has succeeded in important respects, but at a tremendous cost—by demanding a certain theological skepticism about revealed religion that could ultimately undermine the public concern for religious or theological truth altogether.

Democratic Religion from Locke to Obama evaluates these results in light of the role of religion in American political development, particularly as this role has been further defined in the work of political philosopher John Rawls. In the political theologies of Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Barack Obama, Areshidze shows how, while working under Locke’s influence, all of these thinkers draw upon religion, including traditional revealed Christian ideas, in their efforts to reshape America’s moral consciousness—especially on the question of racial equality—in ways that might have surprised Locke.

Finally, drawing on Alexis de Tocqueville’s encounter with the Lockean experiment in America, this book suggests that the dissonance between how tolerant we want religion to be and what we expect it to accomplish in our civic life is a consequence of the liberal transformation of religion. By reminding us of this religious transformation, Tocqueville’s “political science” may explain some of the deepest spiritual and civic anxieties that continue to beset American democracy.

“Issues in Religion and Education” (Beaman & Van Arragon, eds.)

In March, Brill Publishing will release “Issues in Religion and Education: Whose Religion?” edited by Lori G. Beaman and Leo Van Arragon (University of Ottawa).  The publisher’s description follows:

Issues in Religion and EducationIssues in Religion and Education, Whose Religion? is a contribution to the dynamic and evolving global debates about the role of religion in public education. This volume provides a cross-section of the debates over religion, its role in public education and the theoretical and political conundrums associated with resolutions. The chapters reflect the contested nature of the role of religion in public education around the world and explore some of the issues mentioned from perspectives reflecting the diverse contexts in which the authors are situated. The differences among the chapters reflect some of the particular ways in which various jurisdictions have come to see the problem and how they have addressed religious diversity in public education in the context of their own histories and politics.

Stopler on Religious Establishment, Pluralism and Equality in Israel

Gila Stopler (NYU School of Law) has posted Religious Establishment, Pluralism and Equality in Israel—Can the Circle be Squared? The abstract follows.

Israel’s constitutional structure purports to combine strong establishment of the Orthodox Jewish religion in the state with respect for liberal values such as pluralism equality and liberty. Whereas the establishment of the Orthodox Jewish religion is achieved through laws regulations and administrative power, liberal values that are only partially enshrined in law, are mostly defended and articulated by the Israeli Supreme Court. Focusing on the internal conflicts within the Jewish majority the article will show how the power granted to the Orthodox Jewish religion by the state has been used to circumvent liberal values and will examine the role of the Israeli Supreme Court in ameliorating this problem. It will argue that although in countries in which religion and the state are separated a ‘hands-off’ approach to pluralism may be sufficient to protect liberal values, in a country such as Israel with a strong religious establishment a more activist approach, which will be termed ‘egalitarian pluralism’ is required. The article will argue that an egalitarian pluralist approach is needed in order to maintain Israel’s dual commitment to its nature as a ‘Jewish and Democratic’ state and will assess and critique the partial implementation of this approach by the Israeli Supreme Court.

Ferrari on a European Perspective of Law and Religion in a Secular Society

Silvio Ferrari (U. of Milan) has posted Law and Religion in a Secular World: A European Perspective. The abstract follows.

This article examines two interpretations of the process of secularisation that can be traced back through European legal and political thought, and a more recent trend that challenges both of them. It does this through the prism of the public sphere, because in today’s Europe one of the most debated issues is the place and role of religion in this sphere, understood as the space where decisions concerning questions of general interest are discussed. The article concludes, first, that the paradigm through which relations between the secular and the religious have been interpreted is shifting and, second, that this change is going to have an impact on the notion of religious freedom and, consequently, on the recognised position of religions in the public sphere.

Upcoming Lecture: Volf on Exclusivist Faith in a Pluralist World

The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College lists an upcoming lecture: Religious Exclusivism and Pluralism as a Political Project (Boston College, March 14, 2012, at 5:30 PM).  This lecture, by Miroslav Volf, professor at Yale Divinity School and founding director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, will explore the challenges of a world in which interfaith encounters are increasingly unavoidable.

It goes without saying that in the modern world—both within nations and in the global arena—persons of different religions encounter one another and interact, conduct politics, and do business more and more often, even as their beliefs express exclusive and universal validity.  How, asks Professor Volf, do we then co-exist constructively in a pluralistic society of exclusivist faiths?

Please read the Boisi Center’s abstract of Professor Volf’s lecture, as well as its biography of the professor, after the jump.  (Likewise, see this post on Volf’s recent book, A Public Faith, by CLR’s Professor Movsesian.) Continue reading

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