Many readers will be familiar with the term “liberal democracy.” John Rawls, Gerald Gaus, Stephen Macedo, Robert Audi and other names come to mind when we think of political scientists and philosophers who defend the ideal of a liberal democracy. One of those ideals, we are often told, is the absence of religious convictions from our political reasoning – or at very least the absence of religious convictions as the sole basis of any of our political reasoning. Religious values, we are told, are private things, whereas political and public reason must be grounded in public reason (whatever that is, which is a long story).
Imagine the horror (or confusion, perhaps) of a good political liberal of these stripes encountering the claim that we should actually be pursuing a liberal theocracy! How can those words even be put together? But the fact is, liberalism of the type described above is not all there is to liberalism. You could be forgiven for thinking – based on what some contemporary defenders of political liberalism say – that political liberalism has nothing to do with religious values, and in liberalism the values that the state enshrines are secular secular secular, and that is that, or it’s not liberalism. It’s a bit like a congregation of King James only Baptists in Alabama who sing hymns about the fact that they are the only true Christians in the world.
I’m about half way through writing an article called “The Liberal Theocracy,” noting that contemporary Rawlsian liberalism is only one idiosyncratic species of liberalism, and that there is a proper sense of the term liberal democracy that is quite compatible with at least some proper sense of the term theocracy. Sound intriguing? I’ll post the article online when it’s done, see what you think.
- Liberals and sliding justificatory goalpoasts
- Episode 008: Secularism and Equality
- Ed hits it on the head
- I'm heading North
- Religion, morality and politics do mix, say (some) Harvard Students