The Value of Faith

Religion, State & Society, Vol. 38, p. 169, 2010

Oxford Student Legal Studies Paper No. 13/2011

20 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2010 Last revised: 8 Dec 2011

See all articles by Farrah Ahmed

Farrah Ahmed

University of Melbourne - Law School

Date Written: July 24, 2010


Commentators on religious freedom disagree on the rationale for its protection. This question of why we protect religious freedom is important because it influences the manner and scope of the protection of religious freedom by the state. The legal philosopher Timothy Macklem argues, in line with some fideistic approaches to the study of religion, that the value of ‘faith’ – of belief without reason to believe – justifies the protection of religious freedom. This paper offers a critique of Macklem’s account. It argues that this account is inconsistent with a correct view of the nature of reasons, that it over-estimates the circumstances in which faith is valuable, that it fails to adequately consider the connections between faith and false beliefs and that its conclusions imply a much weaker protection of religious freedom than is common in liberal states. This paper also indicates aspects of faith that are valuable, beyond those discussed by Macklem. It is hoped that it will contribute to the debate on the value of faith as well as the broader debate on the justification of religious freedom.

Keywords: Religious Freedom, Faith, Timothy Macklem, Fideism, William James

Suggested Citation

Ahmed, Farrah, The Value of Faith (July 24, 2010). Religion, State & Society, Vol. 38, p. 169, 2010, Oxford Student Legal Studies Paper No. 13/2011, Available at SSRN:

Farrah Ahmed (Contact Author)

University of Melbourne - Law School ( email )

University Square
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
Victoria, Victoria 3010


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