Monday, September 19, 2011

Sectarian Conflict V. Liberal Whateverism

Notre Dame Sociology Professor Christian Smith recently wrote a piece for the Huffington Post in which he discusses some of the findings of his research in the sociology of religion among American youth. He contrasts the age of 'sectarian conflict' in the United States, in which differences between religious commitments led to bigotry, with the current age of 'liberal whateverism' in which religion is relegated to a personal and private sphere with no influence on public or communal life.

An excerpt:
"I think we need to reject both sectarian conflict and liberal whateverism and commit ourselves instead to an authentic pluralism. Genuine pluralism fosters a culture that honors rather than isolates and disparages religious difference. It affirms the right of others to believe and practice their faith, not only in their private lives but also in the public square -- while expecting them to allow still others to do the same. Authentic pluralism does not minimize religious differences by saying that "all religions are ultimately the same." That is false and insipid. Pluralism encourages good conversations and arguments across differences, taking them seriously precisely because they are understood to be about important truths, not merely private "opinions." It is possible, authentic pluralism insists, to profoundly disagree with others while at the same time respecting, honoring, and perhaps even loving them. Genuine pluralism suspects the multi-cultural regime's too-easy blanket affirmations of "tolerance" of being patronizing and dismissive. Pluralism, however, also counts atheist Americans as deserving equal public respect, since their beliefs are based as much on a considered faith as are religious views and so should not be automatically denigrated."

Read the full article here, and attend our Annual Fall Conference, where Christian Smith will be one of our invited speakers.

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