Tuesday, February 17, 2004

A Couple of Links on Religious Freedom

First, Separation and Its Discontents summarizing Kenneth Craycraft's The American Myth of Religious Freedom. The author of the review essay veers towards the Lefebvrist thesis on Dignitatis Humanae, so I can't give the article my full endorsement. However,I read Craycraft's book at the very beginning of my forays into political philosophy, and I think his thesis still has some hold on my mind today. I took away two main points from his work: (1) liberalism views religion through the prism of voluntary associations; religion is good only if it is freely chosen by the autonomous individual. It is unscriptural(See Jn 15:16), pelagian, and if applied consistently would forbid infant baptism and religious education for children. (2) liberal theories of religious liberty are always state-centered: the government decides what constitutes religion and liberty, not the Church.

Next, John C. Rao's article Why Catholics Can't Defend Themselves argues that pluralism is a fideism.

Finally, a quotation from the current First Things:
Liberalism was originally a theory of the state based on representative democracy and individual rights--a theory that was compatible and even harmonious with religion. There can be powerful religious justifications for such a system. But contemporary liberalism is much more than a theory of the state and its limits. Whereas the older liberalism required the state to allow individuals to pursue, within certain bounds, their differing understandings of the objective good for man, the newer liberalism requires individuals, at least in their role as citizens, to be entirely subjective in their understanding of the good. That is, in the newer liberalism, the supreme good, at least for all public purposes, is personal autonomy--a person choosing for himself, without any objective constraint, what shall be good and what shall be evil.
-Robert T. Miller, "A Jury of One's Godless Peers"

Craycraft and probably Rao would argue that this subjectivism is inherent to the liberal project, dating back to Locke. A reconsideration of that argument is in order.

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