“A Truly Public Square”: Religion, Politics, and Secularism

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“A Truly Public Square”: Religion, Politics, and Secularism

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dc.contributor.advisor Heckart, Jennifer
dc.contributor.author Michel, Joel
dc.date.accessioned 2012-07-16T16:52:21Z
dc.date.available 2012-07-16T16:52:21Z
dc.date.issued 2012
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10066/8760
dc.description.abstract The following thesis, through the utilization of Asad’s Formations of the Secular, seeks to deconstruct the commonly-held understanding of secularism as simply the separation of church and state. By doing so, I intend to demonstrate the futility of making suggestions regarding the role of religion in political discourse by appealing to the Constitution alone. Since the foundation of this nation, scholars have taken on the task of decrypting the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution with the intention of discovering the intended role of religion in American public life. Ironically, though they seek to understand the same text, two authors, Stephen L. Carter and Richard Rorty, produce two different interpretations that stand in opposition to each other. Another theorist, Amy Gutmann, offers a third interpretation which she terms “two-way protection”. Two-way protection seeks to consolidate the partial truths found within the interpretations of Carter and Rorty. Gutmann’s emphasis on discovering an understanding of the Religion Clauses that is useful for today’s pluralistic populace, amongst other things, distinguishes her proposal from those of Carter and Rorty. However, Gutmann’s failure to address the secular ethos that pervades American society threatens the practicability of her proposal. Though she makes a valiant effort to generate a public forum that permits religious beliefs, Gutmann struggles to evade the exclusionary characteristics of secularism. In this thesis, I seek to offer new ways of conceptualizing secularism with the intention of imagining a form of American secularism that allows for religious beliefs to play a productive role in American politics. While many are understandably irritated by the ill-advised statements of some religious devotees, the general outcry against religion in the public political discourse of a secular nation represents a misunderstanding of secularism itself. Through his anthropological inquiry of secularism, Asad demonstrates that the construction of secularism as the adversary of religion is only one of many formulations. Though Gutmann’s proposal is imperfect, I argue that two-way protection is useful in helping us reimagine our public forum as a space that is truly neutral toward both religious and secular beliefs. en
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Dept. of Religion
dc.language.iso en_US en
dc.rights.uri http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/
dc.subject.lcsh Secularism -- United States
dc.subject.lcsh Religion and politics -- United States
dc.title “A Truly Public Square”: Religion, Politics, and Secularism en
dc.type Thesis (B.A.) en


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