Analyse & Kritik

Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory

Sacred Values Today

2017 (39) Issue 1


Religion captures our attention nearly every day, even if more often now in the form of religious terrorism. Christians are struck by the difference in belief and attitudes manifested in Islamic cultures and politics. Observers also are speechless how the Jewish religion is used to instigate and justify, within a democratic society, the aggressive occupation of foreign land. And even among the core countries of ’Western secularist enlightenment’ in Europe and the US, religion seems to underg...

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Table of Contents

Title: Ethics and the Sacred: Can Secular Morality Dispense with Religious Values?
Author: Richard Norman
Page: 5-24

In this paper I explore the role that the concept of the sacred can play in our moral thinking. I accept that the assertion that ’human life is sacred’ can be one way of articulating the special value of individual human lives as in some sense inviolable. I cautiously allow that the idea of ’sacred value’ might also apply to other things such as certain kinds of human commitments, uniquely precious art-works, and some other kinds of living things. In conclusion I offer reasons for resisting the claim, made especially by Roger Scruton, that the experience of the sacred, when properly understood, draws us ineluctably into a religious view of the world.

Title: Making Secular Sense of the Sacred
Author: Sam Fleischacker
Page: 25-29

From the earliest days of social science, in the writings of David Hume and Adam Smith, it has been difficult to make secular sense of the notion of sacredness in terms that believers in that notion can recognize as what they mean by it - social scientists instead tend almost universally to treat it as the consequence of an illusion of some kind. This paper explores the sources of that difficulty, arguing that it is built into the assumptions that make social science a science at all. It also argues that treating a category so central to the moral thinking of millions of people as resulting from an illusion breeds attitudes of condescension that are morally problematic. Using themes to be found especially in Kant, the paper proposes a way for social scientists to treat the category of sacredness with respect for moral purposes even while maintaining the presuppositions, for the purposes of their scientific work, that lead them to try to explain it away.

Title: Traditional Morality and Sacred Values
Author: David McPherson
Page: 41-62

This essay gives an account of how traditional morality is best understood and also why it is worth defending (even if some reform is needed) and how this might be done. Traditional morality is first contrasted with supposedly more enlightened forms of morality, such as utilitarianism and liberal Kantianism (i.e., autonomy-centered ethics). The focus here is on certain sacred values that are central to traditional morality and which highlight this contrast and bring out the attractions of traditional morality. Next, this essay explores and offers support for the convergence thesis to which traditional morality, understood as common morality, is committed. This thesis states that although there are diverse moral traditions, insofar as they are in good order we should expect them to converge upon a common or universal morality, even if there remain some differences in the details. The defense of this thesis provides justification for the validity of traditional morality as it suggests an objective basis.

Title: Sacred Values and Interreligious Dialogue
Author: Hans Julius Schneider
Page: 63-83

The paper develops a perspective on religion that is inspired by William James’ concept of religious experience and by the philosophy of language of the later Ludwig Wittgenstein. It proceeds by naming basic steps leading to the proposed conception and by showing that none of them must be a hindrance for a substantial understanding of religion. Among the steps discussed are the acceptance of non-theistic religions, an existential version of functionalism, and the acceptance of the possibility of non-literal truths about the human condition. Furthermore, it proposes a way to interpret the expression ’the sacred’ in the given framework. Finally it points out two contradictory necessities that make interreligious dialogue difficult: In the beginning one has to use an abstract vocabulary in order not to exclude any positions, but on the other hand one has to avoid robbing the participants of the means for articulating their specific religious views.

Title: Protected Values and Other Types of Values
Author: Jonathan Baron
Page: 85-99

Protected values (PVs) are values protected from trade-offs with other values. They are absolute in this sense. People hold these values even when they do not necessarily abide by them in their behavior. I suggest that most of these values are a subset of deontological rules, defined by their absoluteness. Their origin may be understood by looking at the origin of deontological rules more generally, which includes religious (hence sacred) values among others. But PVs are usually maintained by lack of reflection of the sort that would see counterexamples to their absoluteness. PVs often have other characteristics that would lead to classification into other types of values: they are often moralistic (imposed on others
regardless of the willingness of others to accept them); they are about morality rather than convention and thus independent of authority or social consensus; and they often concern second-order preferences (values for values). Especially in combination with these other properties, PVs can be harmful in the domain of politics. Education in the sort of reflection that would lead people to question them could improve the political situation around the world.

Title: Sacred Values in Secular Politics
Author: Steven Lukes
Page: 101-117

What role does sacredness play in the secular politics of the liberal democracies of the United States and Europe today? One approach, focusing on the sources of political unity, suggests that they are integrated by a kind of civil religion, however flawed. This suggestion is criticized empirically as ever less plausible and as blind to the currently feasible limits of social solidarity. A second approach, focusing on the growing democratic crisis of liberal democracies due to ever-deepening social divisions, leads to the suggestion that sacredness is increasingly at work in secular politics. As attachment to organized religion declines so does the public deliberation and negotiation of conflicting interests - the arguing and the bargaining that democracy requires.

Title: Religion beyond Communicative Reason
Author: Lars Albinus
Page: 119-143

The development in Habermas’ political philosophy towards a greater appreciation of religion in the public sphere is already a much discussed issue. In this article, however, I argue first of all for the sustained significance of his theory of communicative action and its structural implications for a religious discourse in a modern, multicultural society. Habermas’ theory is remarkable for its double commitment to social theory and philosophical self-reflection. Thus, it claims to offer a 2nd person perspective of communicative reason for which there is no alternative but discursive particularism. Though the endorsement of rational commitment to engage in a free dialogical discourse stands as a well-argued precondition for a democratic constitution, the theory of communicative action nevertheless seems negligent of some of the problematic ramifications it may have for religious believers. For one thing, the theory tends to trivialize various forms of religion by associating them collectively with the validity criterion of subjective authenticity, thus putting them in a black box of particularism. Moreover, it undermines religious holism by its distinction between form and content, thus enacting a form of discursive power that contradicts its own pretention.

Title: An Empirical Critique of Re-Sacralisation
Author: Steve Bruce
Page: 145-161

This article examines the evidence that largely secular societies are experiencing a process of re-sacralisation. It first dismisses four diversions: taking examples from societies that have never been secular; exaggerating the demographics and religiosity of migrant minorities; missing the fact that religious institutions can only hope to have public influence if they can make a secular case for their preferences; and mistaking notoriety for popularity. It then shows that adherence to Christianity continues to decline apace as does specifically Christian belief. None of the candidates for replacement - non-Christian religions, new religious movements and alternative spirituality - has come at all close to filling the gap left by the Christian churches. Furthermore there is no evidence that governments wish to reverse the standard accommodation to religious diversity and secularity: anything in private; little or nothing in the public sphere. There is no evidence that the population at large wishes it were otherwise. On the contrary. As religion has become more controversial, religion enjoying public influence has, like religion itself, become less, not more popular. Finally, the article argues that the current scarcity of religious people, and the unusual characteristics of those who remain religious, make it ever less likely that there will be a religious revival. So that sufficient detail can be presented, the argument concentrates on the United Kingdom.

Title: Comment on Steve Bruce. An Empirical Critique of Re-Sacralisation
Author: Melanie Reddig
Page: 163-169

In his paper Bruce gives the impression that all proponents of the re-sacralisation thesis expect the comeback of religion in Western Europe. But this is not the case. The re-sacralisation thesis concentrates on religious developments beyond the West. Bruce rejects approaches that discuss the classical secularisation thesis with regard to worldwide developments. However, the examination of worldwide developments reveals that religion and modernity can be intertwined in multiple ways. All in all, Bruce’s argumentation could be extended to the discussion of factors that can explain the decline as well as the rise of religion in different regions of the world. Moreover, the way in which modern individuals believe and express their faith could be discussed.

Title: The Requirements of Justice and Liberal Socialism
Author: Justin P. Holt
Page: 171-194

Recent scholarship has considered the requirements of justice and economic regimes in the work of John Rawls. This work has not delved into the requirements of justice and liberal socialism as deeply as the work done on property-owning democracy. A thorough treatment of liberal socialism and the requirements of justice is needed. This paper seeks to begin to fill this gap. It will be argued that liberal socialism does significantly better in realizing the two principles of justice. In this paper, first an overview of Rawls\' position on economic regimes, capitalism, and the requirements of justice will be given. In particular it will be considered, how the two principles work in tandem to meet the demands of distributive justice. Secondly, property-owning democracy will be reviewed. Finally, liberal socialism will be examined and discussed as an economic regime that answers the requirements of justice more fully.