Introduction to The Agnostic Age: Law, Religion, and the Constitution
THE AGNOSTIC AGE: LAW, RELIGION, AND THE CONSTITUTION, Oxford University Press, January 2011
23 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2011 Last revised: 25 Mar 2011
Date Written: January 4, 2011
This is the introductory chapter of my forthcoming book, The Agnostic Age: Law, Religion, and the Constitution (Oxford University Press 2011). The book argues, in short, that questions of church-state conflict, and more broadly of the relationship between religion and liberal democracy, are inseparable from questions of religious truth, and that the effort to avoid these very questions has led to much of the common dissatisfaction with the theory and doctrine of law and religion. I argue for an approach to the question of law and religion that I call "constitutional agnosticism," one that owes a good deal to a particular brand of agnosticism that is especially well-suited to what Charles Taylor has called our "secular age," and I call our "agnostic age." I use this approach to examine, reform, and hopefully provide a stronger justification for the approach of judges, public officials, and citizens to the vexing questions of church-state relations; but I also argue that even this approach cannot fully reconcile the tensions that are inherent in the relationship between religion and liberal democracy, and that the best we can hope for may be a more candid and thoughtful accounting of the interests on both sides. The introduction sets out the basic argument of the book and provides a roadmap to the ensuing discussion.
Keywords: law and religion, First Amendment, Free Exercise, Establishment Clause, religion and liberal democracy, agnosticism, New Atheists
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