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The Conscience Wars in Historical and Philosophical Perspective: The Clash between Religious Absolutes and Democratic Pluralism

The Conscience Wars: Rethinking the Balance between Religion, Identity, and Equality (Cambridge University Press 2018) (Susanna Mancini & Michel Rosenfeld, eds.)

58 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2017  

Michel Rosenfeld

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Date Written: August 31, 2017

Abstract

Drawing on history and philosophy, this chapter highlights the differences between the new breed of “conscientious objection” and more traditional ones. From a philosophical perspective, the focus is on the difference between philosophical accounts of conscientious objection a generation ago by Rawls and Dworkin and the philosophical implications of its present iterations giving rise to the “conscience wars” in light of the contrast between liberalism and democratic pluralism. From the historical standpoint, on the other hand, the analysis concentrates on the place of conscience in Western Christianity and on its evolution toward the emergence of secularism coupled with the institutionalization of religious tolerance at the end of the religious civil wars in Europe. This culminated in the Enlightenment’s privileging of freedom of religion while disempowering religion from the public arena in the context of implanting liberal constitutionalism. Based on a critical examination of the current conscience wars and conscientious objection jurisprudence, the chapter concludes that the increased religious contestation of the neutrality of liberalism warrants turning to a pluralist perspective that places religious and non-religious ideologies on an equal footing. Consistent with the advocated shift to pluralism, repoliticized religion ought to lose its formerly acquired privilege when confronting conflicting fundamental constitutional rights.

Keywords: conscientious objection, civil disobedience, liberalism, democratic pluralism, religious tolerance, repoliticization of religion

Suggested Citation

Rosenfeld, Michel, The Conscience Wars in Historical and Philosophical Perspective: The Clash between Religious Absolutes and Democratic Pluralism (August 31, 2017). The Conscience Wars: Rethinking the Balance between Religion, Identity, and Equality (Cambridge University Press 2018) (Susanna Mancini & Michel Rosenfeld, eds.). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3030366

Michel Rosenfeld (Contact Author)

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law ( email )

55 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10003
United States
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