Religion and Secular Reason

The Immanent Frame posts a blog entry by John H. Evans on the use of secular and religious reason by religious people in arguments. He contends that for many conservative Christians, the appeal to religion (Lev. 18:22 in the case of homosexuality, for example) is rarely foregrounded. Instead, they make secular arguments.

He’s playing off of those theorists like Rawls, Rorty, and even Habermas, who argue that religious people must be able to communicate in secular terms in order to have a place in public debate. Rorty, for example says that “religious reasons are a conversation-stopper, because they are unintelligible to those who do not share one’s religious beliefs.”

I’ve posted on these issues before. Evans in keeping with the folks behind The Immanent Frame, is trying to test these things empirically. So he has interviewed religious people and secular people about how they use argument and how they think about religious reasons when making arguments.

What struck me was not his research, the questions he asked, or his advocacy of translation (of religious arguments into language accessible to all), but rather the role religious argument plays in convincing people of their own positions. I’ve long suspected that most conservative Christians (and adherents of other religious traditions) come to their political and ethical positions first, and then seek religious sanction for them.

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