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← Freedom of Religion and The Secular State

Viveca's Avatar Jump to comment 11 by Viveca

I like Blackford and definitely consider him worth listening to on many of these matters. However there's one crucial issue that his talk didn't mention (perhaps it's in the book?), and it's this: To simplify - the relative toleration that was advanced in the 17th. cent. was NOT the result of a natural disposition to cease to persecute others on behalf of one's theology, as Blackford acknowledges. It was a reluctant compromise between religious groups, who had failed to achieve their aim of universal domination. The sword was only put aside because it failed, not because it was repudiated, as such.

However, if the resulting secular state is to be primarily concerned with worldly goods and aims and the secular state quite naturally, according to Blackford, evolves into the "Liberal state"; doesn't this "Liberal state" now become vulnerable to religious blackmail? In other words, if the primary function of the "Liberal state" is to allow individuals the freedom to pursue their own relatively atomistic goals and conceptions of the good life, and central to these goals is the pursuit of material wealth and comfort, and protection from physical harm, what is to stop the supposedly "Liberal state" from appeasing religious fundamentalists who threaten the general peace and security that is now so highly valued? Isn't the rather tepid brand of "Liberalism" that actually prevails likely to frown upon those "liberals" who "provoke" the religiously sensitive into disturbing social cohesion and peaceful coexistence?

Isn't the modern "Liberal state" vulnerable to persecuting actual practising "liberals" who, by their very "liberalism", inflame the committed "illiberal" among the religious types? This then goes back to Hobbes: if appeasing illiberal groups allows the population at large to avoid societal conflict and disruption, then appeasement and accomadation of illiberalism would seem to be the prudent and preferable option. This form of "Liberalism" now effectively becomes a bullies charter.

Wed, 08 Feb 2012 01:05:10 UTC | #915467