Professor Ronald Beiner on “Taylor, Rawls and Secularism”

Religion and Modernity, McGill University, 2012

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In the 2012 conference Religion and Modernity, Philosopher Ronald Beiner spoke about religion and its tension within Western liberal secular societies: while liberal societies in the West provide a “breathing space vis-a-vis religion” to ensure the public agenda is not “subject to dictation by religious authorities” but the deliberation of “citizen to citizen”, the problem however is to explain why it is illegitimate for religious expressions to have “leverage” on “power and authority”. There is a paradox, contends Professor Beiner, for a liberal society to imply and impose structural liberal values on citizens whom are not liberal. In this lecture, Professor Beiner will argue that what underlies the assertion of political liberalism as a value that can be asserted in secular modernity is that it is grounded in normative anchors expressed in what he calls the philosophical comprehensive doctrines of citizenship or civism, that in themselves contain the limitations to cultural pluralism in Western secular modernity. While it is through this medium that religious minorities can express their beliefs in the public sphere in the West, in a liberal secular society they can only do so however in this mode, i.e., as equal and citizen to citizen modes; the argument that a liberal community can only addressed on the basis of citizens rather than of believers.

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