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Civic Republic and Liberal Democracy

Civic Republic and Liberal Democracy

Religion in an Ambiguous Polity

Chapter:
(p.34) Chapter Two Civic Republic and Liberal Democracy
Source:
Public Pulpits
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226804767.003.0002

Moral meaning and practice unfolds within the peculiar yet essential ambiguity of the polity in America, both as a cultural constellation of shared meanings and a social order of institutionally structured relationships and practical activities. This ambiguity in turn frames the contest's bifocal flow and logic of argument. Given this premise, this chapter begins to grasp, if not resolve, the paradox of religion's situation in the public life and its constitutional expression. Freedom of religion means more than one thing in America, since it is construed within the context of more than one moral tradition in culture. In addition to being a divisive problem in American society, then, religion has also been part of its mediative answer to problems posed by philosophical liberalism itself, in its moral and political tension with its republicanism.

Keywords:   polity, America, social order, religion, public life, freedom of religion, moral tradition, culture, liberalism, republicanism

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