Democracy & Political Religion

European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy 12 (2) (2020)
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Abstract

This article focuses on the controversy between Reinhold Niebuhr and John Dewey about the function of religion and religious institutions in a democratic society. It shows how Dewey positions his concept of a “common faith” within his project of democratic experimentalism, before revisiting Niebuhr’s criticism of this concept and particularly its anthropological inclinations. Subsequently, the article highlights the affinity of Niebuhr’s interpretation of Dewey’s A Common Faith to Eric Voegelin’s concept of political religions and compares the different concepts of transcendence involved in Dewey’s and Niebuhr’s thinking (with special focus on Niebuhr’s The Nature and Destiny of Man). Niebuhr’s accusation of a shallow progressivism against Dewey is refuted with reference to Dewey’s concept of immanent transcendence. Finally, the potential of Dewey’s A Common Faith for the clarification of the concept of civil religion is discussed against the backdrop of Robert Bellah’s use of this concept.

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Magnus Schlette
University of Heidelberg

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