, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 223-236

First online:

Overlapping Consensus or Marketplace of Religions? Rawls and Smith

  • Jack Russell WeinsteinAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy and Religion, University of North Dakota Email author 

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In this paper, I examine the claim that Rawls’s overlapping consensus is too narrow to allow most mainstream religions’ participation in political discourse. I do so by asking whether religious exclusion is a consequence of belief or action, using conversion as a paradigm case. After concluding that this objection to Rawls is, in fact, defensible, and that the overlapping consensus excludes both religious belief and action, I examine an alternative approach to managing religious pluralism as presented by Adam Smith. I show that Smith’s so-called “marketplace of religions” assumes and encourages religious conversion. I then offer objections to Smith’s approach from Rawls’s point of view, concluding that, while Rawls cannot adequately respond to the Smithian challenge, in the end the two positions are complimentary.


Adam Smith John Rawls Overlapping consensus Religious conversion Marketplace of religions Political liberalism