Liberal Democracy

By: Vijay Mascarenhas  

I argue for two highly controversial points: liberal democracies need not and should not grant special religious freedom in addition to the regular freedoms that must be granted to all citizens, and, sincere commitment to an eschatological religion (Christianity, Islam) is incompatible with liberal democracy. On the first point, I show that Kant’s conception of enlightenment as humanity’s emergence from Unmündigkeit to self-legislating autonomy grounds liberal democracy and that arguments for special treatment of religious expression surreptitiously rely upon treating religion as a type of ethnicity that crystalizes belief into dogma unamenable to rational reflection. Special reservations for the religious thus treat them as unmündige adults. Moreover, any freedom granted to the religious (e.g, use of peyote) should be granted to all if it does not conflict with the liberties of others; where it does, no religious nor irreligious person should that freedom (e.g., discrimination). On the second point, I built upon Mill’s observation that religious freedom never flourishes except where “religious indifference,” prevails in society. No one sincerely committed to an eschatological religion, i.e., who sees salvation as the most important goal of life, can have the “religious indifference” necessary to honestly engage in a liberal democracy. This explains why no deeply religious society has or has ever had true freedom, including freedom of religion

Freedom, Eschatology, Politics
The Politics of Religion
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Vijay Mascarenhas

Associate Professor, Philosophy, Metropolitan State University of Denver, United States
United States

I am a philospher at MSU Denver who works and has published in a variety of areas including philosophy of mind, just war theory, modern philosophy, ancient philosophy.