Arts and Humanities


Contrary to the predictions of secular philosophers for the past several centuries, religion remains alive and well. In fact, in the past several decades, especially in the United States, the role of religion in politics has grown immensely. For the political philosopher Jürgen Habermas this poses a problem. How can a state remain neutral to competing worldviews, religions included, whilst respecting the equal rights of religious citizens to view themselves as authors of the laws that bind them? Habermas believes that religion is an important and useful force in postsecular democracy and as such must be given a chance to be expressed in public. However, in maintaining the state’s neutrality, the use of religious reasons is not permitted in the official law-making institutions of the state. There, only generally accessible, secular reasons may truly ensure that everyone is the author of the laws which govern over them. I will argue in this project that Habermas’ imposition of a firewall against religious reasons in political institutions is an unfair and arbitrary burden placed on religious citizens. Habermas’ translation requirement creates a moral dilemma for religious citizens which may alienate them and therefore may undermine his entire conception of deliberative democracy. This requirement also makes an unneeded and harmful distinction between religious and secular reasons when such a distinction is more arbitrary than Habermas realizes. The translation “proviso” also assumes, without justification, that secular reasons, and not religious ones, are the only reasons which are generally accessible.