Rights, Reasons, and Religious Conflict

Social Philosophy Today 21:81-93 (2005)
Abstract
The role of religious commitments in John Rawls’s version of political liberalism has drawn frequent criticism. Some of the critics have complained that it fails to respect those with deep religious commitments by excluding explicitly religious reasons from debate about fundamental issues of justice. Others criticize the exclusion of religious reasons on the ground that it is unnecessary. Political liberalism, they argue, can accommodate appeals to religious reasons. For critics of both stripes, Jürgen Habermas and Thomas Scanlon should seem a welcome alternative. They offer ways of justifying claims of justice and of legitimating political arrangements that do not appear to exclude religious reasons at the outset but still yield liberal polities. In this paper, I argue that Habermas’s and Scanlon’s theoretical frameworks are not only open to religious reasons, they require the inclusion of religious reasons in deliberations about the just ordering of public life. I then explain why such an arrangement is desirable. I close with a look at the limits of Habermas’s and Scanlon’s ability to accommodate religiousreasons in public deliberation, suggesting that their improvements on Rawls are smaller than they at first appear
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