Liberalism’s Religion

Cécile Laborde. Harvard Univ., $35 (335p) ISBN 978-0-674-97626-9
Laborde tackles the job of defining what the philosophical system of liberalism means when it says religion. She attempts to discern what is recognizable as a religion from the point of view of liberal philosophy, and what, if any, special treatment religion should receive. This is an ambitious project, engaging with a number of fields and theorists, and Laborde is an able explicator of others’ work, skillfully discussing the writings of Ronald Dworkin, Christopher Eisgruber, Lawrence Sager, and Jonathan Quong, among others. However, Laborde falls short of her goal of explaining religion from a secular progressive point of view, coming closer to an explication of liberalism’s theorization of justice. Her text also has a number of puzzling omissions. For example, after discussing Dworkin’s argument in favor of the acceptability to liberalism of the established Anglican Church, she concludes that the Anglican church is a “diluted, patrimonial, culturalized Christianity” and therefore a threat to no one. This is a highly subjective judgment, one of many similar statements that Laborde makes. She seems to accept a vision of white, patriarchal, Western Christianity as the neutral baseline for her investigation—an obviously problematic assumption, particularly when left implicit as it is here. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/28/2017
Release date: 09/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
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