Religious Truth, Pluralism, and Secularization: The Shaking Foundations of American Religious Liberty
27 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2011 Last revised: 12 Jul 2013
Date Written: 2011
In this Essay, I recount John Locke’s 1689 Letter Concerning Toleration and explain how religious liberty continues to rest on Lockean and related justifications. These various justifications depend in part on religious-moral reasoning (both Christian and non-Christian) and in part on political-pragmatic considerations. I then discuss recent and ongoing developments in the American religious landscape, including a radical increase in religious diversity, the modernization of traditional faiths, the individualization or "spiritualization" of religion, and the increasing secularization of individual belief structures. I suggest that these developments, over time, may seriously threaten the underlying religious-moral and political-pragmatic foundations of religious liberty and therefore America’s commitment to religious liberty as a fundamental value. If I am correct, the long-term future of American religious liberty may be in peril.
Keywords: Constitutional Law, Constitutional Interpretation, Religious Liberty, First Amendment, Free Exercise Clause, John Locke, Religious Perspectives on Religious Liberty
JEL Classification: K08, K18, K19, K38, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation