When people hold religious views that have implications for moral choices and for the desirable uses of law, may they properly rely on those religious views in our liberal democracy? The commonly expressed ideas that church and state are separate and that no group should impose its religious views on others may seem to suggest that political dialogue and bases for political decisions should be wholly nonreligious. This position, which is the main target of this Article, receives articulate defense among prominent social philosophers. This Article urges a different position: that no commonly shared ground of decision is available for many issues, and that people should feel as free to rely on religious perspectives as on other perspectives that help determine political positions.
After setting out the position that liberal democracy requires decisions based on rational and secular grounds, I introduce the subjects of animal rights and environmental policy to illustrate my thesis. I suggest that the capacity of rational secular thought to deal with these subjects is limited, and argue that no sensible basis exists for excluding religious bases for judgment about them. These comments lead to a more abstract exploration of the nature of religious convictions and why those convictions should be classified among a larger category of nonrational bases for judgment. This exploration exposes deeply troubling questions about the boundaries of rationality. Despite all its uncertainties and incompleteness, however, the exploration lays the groundwork for the straightforward claim that religious grounds for decision should not be regarded by liberals as inferior in status to the only other bases for political decision that often are available.
Animal Law | Environmental Law | Law
The Limits of Rationality and the Place of Religious Conviction: Protecting Animals and the Environment,
Wm. & Mary L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/3810