Terror, Religion, and Liberal Thought

Columbia Press

by Richard Miller

An Excerpt: How to think normatively about religious violence and terrorism is the subject matter of this book. To that end, I will focus in particular on the events surrounding the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I will do so in large part because, among the recent acts of religious terrorism in the United States and elsewhere, 9/11 raises moral questions about human rights, respect for persons, and the limits of toleration with vivid clarity. For many persons, 9/11 iconically represents not only religious violence but also the globalization of violence—its easy exportation and disregard for borders. More philosophically, 9/11 puts in stark relief questions about the moral challenges of coexistence in an increasingly pluralistic public culture, questions concerning religious authorizations of violence, human rights, and the basis and limits of tolerating the intolerant. These matters are the source of ongoing concerns in liberal democracies, brought on by cases and controversies regarding persons who challenge the limits of our respect for differences and alert us to the demands of justice to ourselves and to innocent persons more generally.

The attacks on 9/11 thus invite us to reflect on basic norms and values according to which liberal democracies organize public life around a vision of citizenship and coexistence—norms regarding personal security, the assignment of respect for persons, and the grounds and bases for religious and other forms of toleration. Such norms provide a deep moral structure to the democratic beliefs and practices that violent religious zealots mock. Drawing sustenance from that structure, citizens can speak with clarity and confidence about the moral stakes involved in defense of themselves and their democratic institutions.

Read the chapter.

(Something interesting I found)Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 by agomberg
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