, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 237-252
Date: 01 Feb 2012

Reason and Religion in Rawls: Voegelin’s Challenge

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Abstract

This article argues that we must abandon the still predominant view of modernity as based upon a separation between the secular and the religious - a “separation” which is allegedly now brought into question again in “postsecularity”. It is more meaningful to start from the premise that religion and politics have always co-existed in various fields of tension and will continue to do so. The question then concerns the natures and modalities of this tension, and how one can articulate a publically grounded reason with reference to it. It will first be argued that this question cannot be articulated, let alone fully answered, from the position developed by John Rawls. A different approach will then be developed, building on the writings of Eric Voegelin. This involves a much more serious engagement with the classical tradition in thought and philosophy than found in Rawls. It also implies much more than a “pragmatic” recognition of religion as a possible source for overlapping consensus, since for Voegelin a true, balanced rationality can only depart from an experientially grounded encounter with the transcendent.