Democracy is a form of government that substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few. - George Bernard Shaw

Nicholas Wolterstoff on faith in liberal democracy

Posted by Bharat on July 10th, 2009

The role one’s religion should play in political decision-making remains a debated issue. John Rawls believes ideally that religious reasons shouldn’t be used in political argument. In Political Liberalism, citing the examples of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., he does make exceptions based on his “proviso.” But he believes firmly in his ideal of “public reason.” On his view, public reason is “characteristic of a democratic people: it is the reason of its citizens, of those sharing the status of equal citizenship. The subject of their reason is the good of the public: what the political conception of justice requires of a society’s basic structure of institutions, and of the purposes and ends they are to serve. Public reason, then, is public in three ways: as reasons of the citizens as such, it is the reason of the public; its subject is the good of the public and matters of fundamental justice; and its nature and content is public, being given by the ideals and principles expressed by society’s conception of political justice, and conducted open to view on that basis… As an ideal conception of citizenship for a constitutional democratic regime, it presents how things might be, taking people as a just and well-ordered society would encourage them to be. It describes what is possible and can be, yet may never be, though no less fundamental for that.” Nicholas Wolterstorff, contra Rawls, has other ideas about the role religion and faith should play in citizens’ decision-making and liberal democracy. Here he is speaking with Miroslav Volf.

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