December 09, 2012
McClay, "Honoring Faith in the Public Square"
Prof. Wilfred McCay has what I think is a really helpful and important essay, at Christianity Today, in which he elaborates on five reasons why -- contra, e.g., Micah Schwartzman and Rich Shragger -- religion is "special" and "should be granted . . . deferential attention" in the public square. He concludes the essay by addressing "an even deeper question. Can our freedom itself, and more generally the rights-based liberalism we have come to embrace in the modern West, survive without the Judeo-Christian religious assumptions that have hitherto accompanied and upheld it?"
Though himself an atheist, the Italian writer Marcello Pera has argued that it cannot—that it is impossible to uproot such ideas as human dignity from the Christian intellectual soil in which, historically, they were nourished. It's a dangerous illusion, he says, to imagine that modern liberal values can be sustained apart from religious presuppositions about the nature and destiny of man. Ironically, the very possibility of a "secular" realm of politics—which we embrace in the West as both inherently good and a necessary precondition of religious freedom—may depend upon the presence of certain distinctively Christian beliefs, embodied in culture as much as in doctrine.
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