Jurgen Habermas on “Faith and Knowledge”


Michael Welton in CounterPunch (image from wikimedia commons):

Habermas addresses a theme that will preoccupy him in the following decade and half. He points out the “other side of religious freedom”—the “pacification of the pluralism of worldviews” (ibid.)—distributes “burdens unequally” (ibid.). This is a monumental critique and illumination of what has been taken-for-granted and seldom commented upon. Christian, Jewish or Muslim citizens (and other religious faith-communities), unlike secular citizens, have to split their identities into private and public elements. The pressure crushes down on the religious citizenry to “translate their religious beliefs into a secular language before their arguments have any chance of gaining majority support” (ibid.), or of gaining any kind of purchase on public opinion.

Habermas provides the example of German Christians (Protestant and Catholic) who claim the “status of human rights for the gamete fertilized ex utero; this is how they engage in any attempt (an unfortunate one, I think) to translate man’s likeness to God into the secular language of the constitution” (p. 332). Only if the “secular side” remains open to the “force of articulation inherent in religious language will the search for reasons that aim at universal acceptability not lead to an unfair exclusion of religion from the public sphere, nor sever secular society from important resources of meaning” (ibid).

Habermas admits that the boundaries between the secular and the religious are fluid. But the boundaries ought to be guarded by both sides. In post-Enlightenment and secularized societies, the religious segment of the population must not bear the brunt of fending off the dominating and bullying secular self-awareness.

More here.