Religion and Science (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
The difficulty in approaching the question of the relation between Religion and belief among Christians that the world was coming to an end in the lifetime of .. It lacks any directness of response, because modern science and modern. Cognitive Science of Religion and its relevance for the rationality of religious beliefs How can the relationship between these two be understood, and how do researchers have explored the hypothesis that science is today increasingly . It supports the idea early modern science rose due to a combination.
Scientific and theological perspectives often coexist peacefully. Christians and some non-Christian religions have historically integrated well with scientific ideas, as in the ancient Egyptian technological mastery applied to monotheistic ends, the flourishing of logic and mathematics under Hinduism and Buddhismand the scientific advances made by Muslim scholars during the Ottoman empire.
Even many 19th-century Christian communities welcomed scientists who claimed that science was not at all concerned with discovering the ultimate nature of reality. Principethe Johns Hopkins University Drew Professor of the Humanities, from a historical perspective this points out that much of the current-day clashes occur between limited extremists—both religious and scientistic fundamentalists—over a very few topics, and that the movement of ideas back and forth between scientific and theological thought has been more usual.
He also admonished that true religion must conform to the conclusions of science.
Religion and Science
Buddhism and science Buddhism and science have been regarded as compatible by numerous authors. For example, Buddhism encourages the impartial investigation of nature an activity referred to as Dhamma-Vicaya in the Pali Canon —the principal object of study being oneself.
Buddhism and science both show a strong emphasis on causality.
However, Buddhism doesn't focus on materialism. In his book The Universe in a Single Atom he wrote, "My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science, so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation.
Christianity and science Science and Religion are portrayed to be in harmony in the Tiffany window Education Francis Collins, a scientist who happens to be a Christian, is the current director of the National Institutes of Health. Among early Christian teachers, Tertullian c. These ideas were significantly countered by later findings of universal patterns of biological cooperation.
According to John Habgoodall man really knows here is that the universe seems to be a mix of good and evilbeauty and painand that suffering may somehow be part of the process of creation.
Habgood holds that Christians should not be surprised that suffering may be used creatively by Godgiven their faith in the symbol of the Cross. The "Handmaiden" tradition, which saw secular studies of the universe as a very important and helpful part of arriving at a better understanding of scripture, was adopted throughout Christian history from early on.
Heilbron Alistair Cameron CrombieDavid Lindberg Edward GrantThomas Goldstein,  and Ted Davis have reviewed the popular notion that medieval Christianity was a negative influence in the development of civilization and science. In their views, not only did the monks save and cultivate the remnants of ancient civilization during the barbarian invasions, but the medieval church promoted learning and science through its sponsorship of many universities which, under its leadership, grew rapidly in Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Church's "model theologian", not only argued that reason is in harmony with faith, he even recognized that reason can contribute to understanding revelation, and so encouraged intellectual development. He was not unlike other medieval theologians who sought out reason in the effort to defend his faith. Lindberg states that the widespread popular belief that the Middle Ages was a time of ignorance and superstition due to the Christian church is a "caricature".
According to Lindberg, while there are some portions of the classical tradition which suggest this view, these were exceptional cases. It was common to tolerate and encourage critical thinking about the nature of the world. The relation between Christianity and science is complex and cannot be simplified to either harmony or conflict, according to Lindberg.
There was no warfare between science and the church. A degree of concord between science and religion can be seen in religious belief and empirical science. The belief that God created the world and therefore humans, can lead to the view that he arranged for humans to know the world. This is underwritten by the doctrine of imago dei.
In the words of Thomas Aquinas"Since human beings are said to be in the image of God in virtue of their having a nature that includes an intellect, such a nature is most in the image of God in virtue of being most able to imitate God". As science advanced, acceptance of a literal version of the Bible became "increasingly untenable" and some in that period presented ways of interpreting scripture according to its spirit on its authority and truth.
Later that year, a similar law was passed in Mississippi, and likewise, Arkansas in Inthese "anti-monkey" laws were struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States as unconstitutional, "because they established a religious doctrine violating both the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution. Inthe United States Supreme Court ruled that creationism is religionnot science, and cannot be advocated in public school classrooms.
It includes a range of beliefs, including views described as evolutionary creationismwhich accepts some findings of modern science but also upholds classical religious teachings about God and creation in Christian context. Bowler argues that in contrast to the conflicts between science and religion in the U. It differs from the other scientific approaches to religion by its presupposition that religion is not a purely cultural phenomenon, but the result of ordinary, early developed, and universal human cognitive processes e.
Some authors regard religion as the byproduct of cognitive processes that do not have an evolved function specific for religion. For example, according to Paul Bloomreligion emerges as a byproduct of our intuitive distinction between minds and bodies: Another family of hypotheses regards religion as a biological or cultural adaptive response that helps humans solve cooperative problems e. Through their belief in big, powerful gods that can punish, humans behave more cooperatively, which allowed human group sizes to expand beyond small hunter-gatherer communities.
Groups with belief in big gods thus outcompeted groups without such beliefs for resources during the Neolithic, which explains the current success of belief in such gods Norenzayan Natural philosopher Isaac Newton held strong, albeit unorthodox religious beliefs Pfizenmaier By contrast, contemporary scientists have lower religiosity compared to the general population.
There are vocal exceptions, such as the geneticist Francis Collins, erstwhile the leader of the Human Genome Project. They indicate a significant difference in religiosity in scientists compared to the general population. Surveys such as those conducted by the Pew forum Masci and Smith find that nearly nine in ten adults in the US say they believe in God or a universal spirit, a number that has only slightly declined in recent decades.
Atheism and agnosticism are widespread among academics, especially among those working in elite institutions. Ecklund and Scheitle analyzed responses from scientists working in the social and natural sciences from 21 elite universities in the US.
In contrast to the general population, the older scientists in this sample did not show higher religiosity—in fact, they were more likely to say that they did not believe in God. On the other hand, Gross and Simmons examined a more heterogeneous sample of scientists from American colleges, including community colleges, elite doctoral-granting institutions, non-elite four-year state schools, and small liberal arts colleges.
They found that the majority of university professors full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty had some theistic beliefs, believing either in God Belief in God was influenced both by type of institution lower theistic belief in more prestigious schools and by discipline lower theistic belief in the physical and biological sciences compared to the social sciences and humanities.
These latter findings indicate that academics are more religiously diverse than has been popularly assumed and that the majority are not opposed to religion.
Even so, in the US the percentage of atheists and agnostics in academia is higher than in the general population, a discrepancy that requires an explanation. One reason might be a bias against theists in academia. For example, when sociologists were surveyed whether they would hire someone if they knew the candidate was an evangelical Christian, Another reason might be that theists internalize prevalent negative societal stereotypes, which leads them to underperform in scientific tasks and lose interest in pursuing a scientific career.
Kimberly Rios et al. It is unclear whether religious and scientific thinking are cognitively incompatible. Some studies suggest that religion draws more upon an intuitive style of thinking, distinct from the analytic reasoning style that characterizes science Gervais and Norenzayan On the other hand, the acceptance of theological and scientific views both rely on a trust in testimony, and cognitive scientists have found similarities between the way children and adults understand testimony to invisible entities in religious and scientific domains Harris et al.
Moreover, theologians such as the Church Fathers and Scholastics were deeply analytic in their writings, indicating that the association between intuitive and religious thinking might be a recent western bias.
More research is needed to examine whether religious and scientific thinking styles are inherently in tension. Science and religion in Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism As noted, most studies on the relationship between science and religion have focused on science and Christianity, with only a small number of publications devoted to other religious traditions e. Relatively few monographs pay attention to the relationship between science and religion in non-Christian milieus e.
Since western science makes universal claims, it is easy to assume that its encounter with other religious traditions is similar to the interactions observed in Christianity. However, given different creedal tenets e. It developed in the first century AD out of Judaism from a group of followers of Jesus. Christians adhere to asserted revelations described in a series of canonical texts, which include the Old Testament, which comprises texts inherited from Judaism, and the New Testament, which contains the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John narratives on the life and teachings of Jesusas well as events and teachings of the early Christian churches e.
Given the prominence of revealed texts in Christianity, a useful starting point to examine the relationship between Christianity and science is the two books metaphor see Tanzella-Nitti for an overview. Augustine — argued that the book of nature was the more accessible of the two, since scripture requires literacy whereas illiterates and literates alike could read the book of nature. During the Middle Ages, authors such as Hugh of St. Given that original sin marred our reason and perception, what conclusions could humans legitimately draw about ultimate reality?
He argued that sin has clouded human reason so much that the book of nature has become unreadable, and that scripture is needed as it contains teachings about the world.
Christian authors in the field of science and religion continue to debate how these two books interrelate. Concordism is the attempt to interpret scripture in the light of modern science. It is a hermeneutical approach to Bible interpretation, where one expects that the Bible foretells scientific theories, such as the Big Bang theory or evolutionary theory. However, as Denis Lamoureux Thus, any plausible form of integrating the books of nature and scripture will require more nuance and sophistication.
Theologians such as John Wesley — have proposed the addition of other sources of knowledge to scripture and science: Several Christian authors have attempted to integrate science and religion e. They tend to interpret findings from the sciences, such as evolutionary theory or chaos theory, in a theological light, using established theological models, e.
John Haught argues that the theological view of kenosis self-emptying anticipates scientific findings such as evolutionary theory: The dominant epistemological outlook in Christian science and religion has been critical realism, a position that applies both to theology theological realism and to science scientific realism.
Barbour introduced this view into the science and religion literature; it has been further developed by theologians such as Arthur Peacocke and Wentzel van Huyssteen Critical realism has distinct flavors in the works of different authors, for instance, van Huyssteendevelops a weak form of critical realism set within a postfoundationalist notion of rationality, where theological views are shaped by social, cultural, and evolved biological factors. Peter Harrison thinks the doctrine of original sin played a crucial role in this, arguing there was a widespread belief in the early modern period that Adam, prior to the fall, had superior senses, intellect, and understanding.
As a result of the fall, human senses became duller, our ability to make correct inferences was diminished, and nature itself became less intelligible.
They must supplement their reasoning and senses with observation through specialized instruments, such as microscopes and telescopes. As Robert Hooke wrote in the introduction to his Micrographia: As a result, the Condemnation opened up intellectual space to think beyond ancient Greek natural philosophy.
For example, medieval philosophers such as John Buridan fl. As further evidence for a formative role of Christianity in the development of science, some authors point to the Christian beliefs of prominent natural philosophers of the seventeenth century. For example, Clark writes, Exclude God from the definition of science and, in one fell definitional swoop, you exclude the greatest natural philosophers of the so-called scientific revolution—Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, Boyle, and Newton to name just a few.
In spite of these positive readings of the relationship between science and religion in Christianity, there are sources of enduring tension. For example, there is still vocal opposition to the theory of evolution among Christian fundamentalists. Additionally, it refers to a culture which flourished within this political and religious context, with its own philosophical and scientific traditions Dhanani As the second largest religion in the world, Islam shows a wide variety of beliefs.
Beyond this, Muslims disagree on a number of doctrinal issues. The relationship between Islam and science is complex. Today, predominantly Muslim countries, such as the United Arabic Emirates, enjoy high urbanization and technological development, but they underperform in common metrics of scientific research, such as publications in leading journals and number of citations per scientist see Edis Moreover, Islamic countries are also hotbeds for pseudoscientific ideas, such as Old Earth creationism, the creation of human bodies on the day of resurrection from the tailbone, and the superiority of prayer in treating lower-back pain instead of conventional methods Guessoum The contemporary lack of scientific prominence is remarkable given that the Islamic world far exceeded European cultures in the range and quality of its scientific knowledge between approximately the ninth and the fifteenth century, excelling in domains such as mathematics algebra and geometry, trigonometry in particularastronomy seriously considering, but not adopting, heliocentrismoptics, and medicine.
A major impetus for Arabic science was the patronage of the Abbasid caliphate —centered in Baghdad. The former founded the Bayt al-Hikma House of Wisdomwhich commissioned translations of major works by Aristotle, Galen, and many Persian and Indian scholars into Arabic.
It was cosmopolitan in its outlook, employing astronomers, mathematicians, and physicians from abroad, including Indian mathematicians and Nestorian Christian astronomers. Throughout the Arabic world, public libraries attached to mosques provided access to a vast compendium of knowledge, which spread Islam, Greek philosophy, and Arabic science.
The use of a common language Arabicas well as common religious and political institutions and flourishing trade relations encouraged the spread of scientific ideas throughout the empire. Some of this transmission was informal, e. The decline and fall of the Abbasid caliphate dealt a blow to Arabic science, but it remains unclear why it ultimately stagnated, and why it did not experience something analogous to the scientific revolution in Western Europe.
Some liberal Muslim authors, such as Fatima Mernissiargue that the rise of conservative forms of Islamic philosophical theology stifled more scientifically-minded natural philosophers. This book vindicated more orthodox Muslim religious views. As Muslim intellectual life became more orthodox, it became less open to non-Muslim philosophical ideas, which led to the decline of Arabic science.
The study of law fiqh was more stifling for Arabic science than developments in theology. The eleventh century saw changes in Islamic law that discouraged heterodox thought: Given that heterodox thoughts could be interpreted as apostasy, this created a stifling climate for Arabic science. In the second half of the nineteenth century, as science and technology became firmly entrenched in western society, Muslim empires were languishing or colonized.
Religion isn’t the enemy of science: it’s been inspiring scientists for centuries
Scientific ideas, such as evolutionary theory, were equated with European colonialism, and thus met with distrust. In spite of this negative association between science and western modernity, there is an emerging literature on science and religion by Muslim scholars mostly scientists. The physicist Nidhal Guessoum holds that science and religion are not only compatible, but in harmony. Nevertheless, Muslim scientists such as Guessoum and Rana Dajani have advocated acceptance of evolution.
In contrast to the major monotheistic religions, Hinduism does not draw a sharp distinction between God and creation while there are pantheistic and panentheistic views in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, these are minority positions. Many Hindus believe in a personal God, and identify this God as immanent in creation. This view has ramifications for the science and religion debate, in that there is no sharp ontological distinction between creator and creature Subbarayappa Philosophical theology in Hinduism and other Indic religions is usually referred to as dharma, and religious traditions originating on the Indian subcontinent, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, are referred to as dharmic religions.
One factor that unites dharmic religions is the importance of foundational texts, which were formulated during the Vedic period, between ca. More gods were added in the following centuries e.
Ancient Vedic rituals encouraged knowledge of diverse sciences, including astronomy, linguistics, and mathematics. Astronomical knowledge was required to determine the timing of rituals and the construction of sacrificial altars. Linguistics developed out of a need to formalize grammatical rules for classical Sanskrit, which was used in rituals.
Large public offerings also required the construction of elaborate altars, which posed geometrical problems and thus led to advances in geometry. Classic Vedic texts also frequently used very large numbers, for instance, to denote the age of humanity and the Earth, which required a system to represent numbers parsimoniously, giving rise to a base positional system and a symbolic representation for zero as a placeholder, which would later be imported in other mathematical traditions Joseph In this way, ancient Indian dharma encouraged the emergence of the sciences.
Around the sixth—fifth century BCE, the northern part of the Indian subcontinent experienced an extensive urbanization. The latter defended a form of metaphysical naturalism, denying the existence of gods or karma.
The relationship between science and religion on the Indian subcontinent is complex, in part because the dharmic religions and philosophical schools are so diverse.
Such views were close to philosophical naturalism in modern science, but this school disappeared in the twelfth century. He formulated design and cosmological arguments, drawing on analogies between the world and artifacts: Given that the universe is so complex that even an intelligent craftsman cannot comprehend it, how could it have been created by non-intelligent natural forces?
From toIndia was under British colonial rule. This had a profound influence on its culture. Hindus came into contact with Western science and technology. For local intellectuals, the contact with Western science presented a challenge: Mahendrahal Sircar — was one of the first authors to examine evolutionary theory and its implications for Hindu religious beliefs.
Sircar was an evolutionary theist, who believed that God used evolution to create the current life forms. Evolutionary theism was not a new hypothesis in Hinduism, but the many lines of empirical evidence Darwin provided for evolution gave it a fresh impetus. While Sircar accepted organic evolution through common descent, he questioned the mechanism of natural selection as it was not teleological, which went against his evolutionary theism—this was a widespread problem for the acceptance of evolutionary theory, one that Christian evolutionary theists also wrestled with Bowler The assimilation of western culture prompted various revivalist movements that sought to reaffirm the cultural value of Hinduism.
Responses to evolutionary theory were as diverse as Christian views on this subject, ranging from creationism denial of evolutionary theory based on a perceived incompatibility with Vedic texts to acceptance see C. Brown for a thorough overview. Authors such as Dayananda Saraswati — rejected evolutionary theory. More generally, he claimed that Hinduism and science are in harmony: Hinduism is scientific in spirit, as is evident from its long history of scientific discovery Vivekananda Sri Aurobindo Ghose, a yogi and Indian nationalist, who was educated in the West, formulated a synthesis of evolutionary thought and Hinduism.
He interpreted the classic avatara doctrine, according to which God incarnates into the world repeatedly throughout time, in evolutionary terms. He proposed a metaphysical picture where both spiritual evolution reincarnation and avatars and physical evolution are ultimately a manifestation of God Brahman.
Brown for discussion. During the twentieth century, Indian scientists began to gain prominence, including C. Raman —a Nobel Prize winner in physics, and Satyendra Nath Bose —a theoretical physicist who described the behavior of photons statistically, and who gave his name to bosons.
However, these authors were silent on the relationship between their scientific work and their religious beliefs. By contrast, the mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan — was open about his religious beliefs and their influence on his mathematical work. He claimed that the goddess Namagiri helped him to intuit solutions to mathematical problems. Likewise, Jagadish Chandra Bose —a theoretical physicist, biologist, biophysicist, botanist, and archaeologist, who worked on radio waves, saw the Hindu idea of unity reflected in the study of nature.
He started the Bose institute in Kolkata inthe earliest interdisciplinary scientific institute in India Subbarayappa Contemporary connections between science and religion Current work in the field of science and religion encompasses a wealth of topics, including free will, ethics, human nature, and consciousness.
Contemporary natural theologians discuss fine-tuning, in particular design arguments based on it e. Collinsthe interpretation of multiverse cosmology, and the significance of the Big Bang. For instance, authors such as Hud Hudson have explored the idea that God has actualized the best of all possible multiverses. Here follows an overview of two topics that generated substantial interest and debate over the past decades: This doctrine of creation has the following interrelated features: Differently put, God did not need any pre-existing materials to make the world, unlike, e.
Rather, God created the world freely. For this reason, religions are not "matters of faith" if that term means a belief immune to rational validation or invalidation.
Each religion may indeed be called a faith because its function is to cultivate an existential understanding of our ultimate worth. But every religious representation can be critically assessed by formulating its metaphysical and moral implications and asking whether they accord with the inescapable human relation to ultimate reality. Critical thought of this kind, Iris Murdoch once wrote, is "determined to argue for something it already knows" Murdoch Religious convictions can themselves be rationally validated and invalidated because they seek to make explicit something in human experience implied by every human belief and activity -and from religion so understood, an alternative view of its relation to science follows.
Metaphysical conditions not only make possible the ultimate worth of human life but also constitute the abiding aspect of the world empirical science investigates. Such conditions are common to subjects who decide, on the one hand, and to the objects of science, on the other.
Moreover, science is an activity of subjects and, like all of our activities, is something we decide to pursue because we affirm it as worthy.
Accordingly, science is properly ordered by the truth about our ultimate worth each religion seeks explicitly to represent. This in no way denies that many facts -indeed, all facts about the world except those at the very highest or necessary level of abstraction- are contingent, and therefore the scientific method, proper to critical reasoning about some contingent facts, is autonomous within the realm to which it applies.
Nor does this account in any way imply that science should be controlled by any specific practical purpose or particular religious community or tradition. The point is simply this: The dichotomy described in the previous question presupposes a set of epistemological claims that have political implications, in terms of enabling some and disabling other possibilities for thinking, acting and judging the social order in which we live and the historical becoming through which it has been constituted.
For example, the presumed epistemic superiority of the language of modern sciences over the language of mythological or religious discourses as grids for making the world and the human condition intelligible is an integral part of how the political history of the encounters between modern western nation-states and their colonized "others" is narrated.
Or, to offer another example, this alleged epistemic superiority easily leads to a secularistic conception of political agency as a history-constituting and history-transforming power, widely dominant in the context of modern societies. This conception does not allow us to understand and think through the ways in which religious discourses and practices have been decisive in forming significant practices of political resistance like the civil rights movement in the United States.
A set of epistemological claims can profoundly condition the ontology of the social world of which we consider ourselves to be a part, silencing other ways of understanding history and the type of agency that can configure it, or transform it.
In the trajectory of your work, how do you understand the relation between epistemology and politics or between epistemological and political problemsin connection to the science-religion dyad of which we have been speaking? Or to put it somewhat differently, what are the implications in our understanding of the political that derive from the way we assume a set of epistemological claims to draw the distinction between science and religion in a certain way?
Nothing is more powerful than Truth and that is a common element in both science and religion.
Authority, order and dominion have to do with the existence of subjects with the authority to speak for others. The very idea of Truth eliminates any possibility of debate or of public participation; it is contrary to opinion or diversity.
The Science and Religion Relationship
Once Truth and its spokesmen arrive, the public arena is left vacant; it is, so to speak, the end of politics. We could argue that the main concern of current social studies of science among historians, philosophers, and sociologists of knowledge is the problem of power, of how the relations between knowledge and politics are formed. Thus, the relation between epistemology and politics is total. The great problem of power, from the viewpoint of a historian of science, has to do with understanding how the spokesmen of Truth are constituted, that is to say individuals, or better yet, social groups, that have the authority to speak for everyone else.
The birth of modern science and the European Enlightenment are fundamentally changes in political history; it is, once again, the battle for Truth. Who has the truth about nature, about the human body, about society, about economics and, of course, about eternity It is in this sense that we cannot understand politics outside of the religious or scientific spheres.
Let's think about the great historical processes of, for example, the empires of Christian Europe and their conquest of much of the planet, which has been justified precisely by the idea of Christian Europe as the bearer of religious and scientific truths. The discovery and conquest of America were motivated and justified by the propagation of Christian dogma; the domination as well as the extermination of other cultures were carried out in the name of God, of a truth that had to be spread or imposed for the good of humankind.
The manifestation of cultural or scientific superiority that imposed western European ways of understanding, ordering and operating on nature and society was not very different. It might be worthwhile clarifying here that the relations between science and politics should not be understood as the interaction between distinct spheres or as instrumental relations in which science is influenced by or operates in the name of politics; it is more a question of understanding science as politics.
It is not a matter, for example, of explaining science within the context of imperial history, but rather as imperial history. In fact, it is practices such as geography, natural history, medicine, economics, forms of power in action, practices that shape new natural and social orders and simultaneously shape practices that constitute the subjects that define said orders. A similar reflection should be made regarding religion and politics, thinking not so much of religion at the service of politics, as an instrument of power, but rather of religion as politics and as power.
On my accounting, the supposed dichotomy between science and religion follows from the secularistic assumption that all conditions of existence are contingent. On the correlative account of epistemology, both morality and religion involve nonrational beliefs, and practical reason is reduced to its instrumental service toward ends humans are left merely to decide or posit.
This reading takes issue with those for whom a secularistic morality can be rational, but I also expressed doubt that any such proposal can succeed. To the best of my reasoning, human decision as such chooses among alternatives for purpose, and every moral theory at least implies an understanding of worth or the good that properly directs purposes in their entirety -and no such understanding can be validated if all conditions of existence are contingent. Given the reductive account of practical reason, the consequences for political life are considerable.
If human ends are nonrational, human association is properly seen as the interaction of strategically concerned individuals or groups, each relating to the others in terms of its own private purposes.
Political life is reduced to the accidental conflict and concord of private interests and thus, unless violence or war results, to bargaining negotiations. The model for such interaction is the concept of economic exchange, where each party calculates benefits in terms of its preferences in order to reach an agreement. In sum, the rationalization of society is rightly captured in Weber's description of modernity, and something similar characterizes the interaction among nations.
To be sure, modern western political theories have often purported to be democratic. Procedures of fair interaction, sometimes including principles for a distribution of resources in accord with some account of equal opportunity, are said to provide the context within which nonrational interests or purposes are acceptable -and norms for international relations are sometimes derived from these democratic proposals.
Liberalism in political thought is often said to be the consequence, and many theories of this kind imply dominance within the social order of economic institutions and goals -precisely because they are thought to provide all-purpose means to diverse private ends. But secularism as described above prevents, I believe, any democratic principles of justice all citizens have reason to consider prescriptive. What counts for individuals and groups as good relations to other people will depend on what is affirmed as the inclusive good that action should pursue -and if, in each case, the latter is nonrational, rational norms for politics cannot be derived.
This reading of secularistic democratic theories is confirmed by their attempts to interpret the constitutional principle of religious freedom. Given constitutional legitimization of, and thus governmental neutrality toward, diverse religious convictions or, more extensively, what John Rawls calls comprehensive doctrineshow is principled common action and thus political community possible?
The pluralism in question, virtually all agree, involves convictions about the overall or inclusive orientation of human life, and secularistic theories of religious freedom typically propose to separate public reason or democratic principles from any one of these orientations.
Such independence is thought to be required because the convictions legitimized at least include religious beliefs, and they are assumed to be nonrational "matters of faith. As far as I can see, however, this solution is untenable. Each conviction about the inclusive orientation of human life implies that all principles of justice depend on it, and relevant disagreement among religions or comprehensive doctrines is a conflict at the most fundamental level of political evaluation.
A proposal in which justice is separated from any one is, then, a denial of all of them -or, what comes to the same thing, a competitive assertion about the most fundamental character of justice. Because the beliefs religious freedom legitimizes are said to be nonrational, the principled separation that governmental neutrality is said to require must be constitutionally stipulated - and thereby the constitution contradicts itself, explicitly denying the convictions it also protects.
In truth, a legitimized plurality of nonrational convictions about justice as such cannot be civilized; the only alternatives are a modus vivendi or a fight. If secularistic epistemology makes religious freedom incoherent, the alternative opened by the metaphysical project entails an alternative account of democracy.
Differing religions are now understood as differing attempts to explicate our common human experience of ultimate reality and our ultimate worth. Thereby, all convictions about the inclusive orientation of our activities can be critically assessed as valid or invalid -and the principle of religious freedom is no longer inconsistent with political community: To be sure, activities of the state informed by this discourse cannot be independent of all such beliefs but, rather, will imply some or other fundamental terms of justice -namely, those the discourse of the relevant majority of democratic citizens, at least at a given time, finds convincing.
But those activities may still be explicitly neutral to the diversity if the government is always prohibited from teaching anything about the religion or comprehensive doctrine any activity of the state does or does not imply. Focus on the coherence of religious freedom is a window on the political consequences of an adequate metaphysics. Given that convictions about worth in human life as such are properly objects of rational assessment, political life is not interaction among and for the sake of private interests or ends but, rather, is properly directed by a common human vocation we all find in our experience.
Democracy constitutes a full and free discussion and debate seeking to clarify that vocation and apply it to activities of the state.