From Eternity to Here: Divine Accommodation and the Lost Language of Law

28 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2018

See all articles by Nomi Maya Stolzenberg

Nomi Maya Stolzenberg

University of Southern California - Gould School of Law

Date Written: September 25, 2018

Abstract

This paper asserts that the discourse of religious accommodation has stopped making sense, and that the reason it has stopped making sense is because our terminology (including such terms as "religion," "accommodation," and "secularism") is inherited from tradition of political theological discourse that has been forgotten: the theology of divine accommodation. The paper reconstructs the content of that tradition of political theology in broad strokes, arguing that the birthplace of secularism and the birthplace of liberalism both lie here and that, once we recognize that, a number of doctrinal and conceptual puzzles can be solved, including how to define religion, whether to characterize secular humanism as a religion, and whether to accept the broad (virtually boundless) conception of a right to religious accommodation now being promoted by religious conservatives. The answers proposed are that (a) religion, from the standpoint of this tradition of political theology, refers to beliefs about the content and source of the moral law, and is not contingent on continued belief in a deity; (b) secular humanism is a religion in this sense, and is indeed the religion promoted by accommodationist political theology; (c) the broad conception of a right to religious accommodation must be rejected for the same reasons that the "religion" of secular humanism must be accepted. The paper further argues, as a matter of political theory/history of political thought, that locating the origins of liberalism and secularism in the tradition of divine accommodation reveals conservative political theology and liberal political theory to be one and the same. Finally, it underscores the centrality of law to the humanist tradition and the centrality of humanism to law.

Suggested Citation

Stolzenberg, Nomi Maya, From Eternity to Here: Divine Accommodation and the Lost Language of Law (September 25, 2018). USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 18-2. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3255018 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3255018

Nomi Maya Stolzenberg (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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