Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Stanley Fish on Liberalism's Inability to Be Fair to Religions that Don't Mirror Its Presuppositions

“Liberalism as a doctrine is incapable of accomodating strong religiosity and the reason is simple. Liberalism as both a philosophy and a theory of the state depends at bottom on the distinction between the public and private. That's how liberalism deals with the diversity of men and women in the society. Men and women in the society believe a great many things and those beliefs are important to them but if they are going to participate in the public sphere, says liberalism, they should participate as citizens, not as sectarians. They should in fact leave their strongest doctrinal concerns and affiliations at the door and only give arguments in the public sphere that will be recognized as arguments by everyone else, no matter what their religion, or even their absence of religion. Obviously, that kind of imperative- the imperative of liberalism, will not sit well with a form of religiosity that refuses to recognize the line between public and private and indeed believes that adhering to that line is an act of impiety and makes fun of it... And so I believe that I do want to make American liberals uncomfortable with the claim that they often make that they can be fair to religion. They can only be fair to a religion which mirrors the liberal distinction of the liberals sequestering a religion in private spaces. The moment a religion makes claims that cross that line liberals become extremely uncomfortable and start using terms like
'zealot', 'extremist' and even 'nut'.
” - Stanley Fish in an interview with Ken Myers on Mars Hill Audio, Volume 97.

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