Taking Faith Seriously

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9780674017108: Taking Faith Seriously

Whether simply uneasy or downright hostile, the relation between religion and liberal democracy in this country has long been vexed and complex--and crucial to what America is and aspires to be. Amid increasingly contentious exchanges over fundamentalism, abortion rights, secularism, and pluralism, this book reminds us of the critical role that religion plays in the health and well-being of a democracy.

A healthy democracy draws strength from a rich civic and social life, many forms of which are religious. Moreover, these contributions are anchored in the intrinsic commitments of faith, commitments that extend over time, linking generations past and present. Strengthening these commitments and practices, the authors suggest, will also fortify pluralistic civil society and democratic participation. Their book provides the analytical tools and historical perspective for building and reinforcing such a constructive engagement between religion and liberal democracy--and for understanding the ongoing dialogue between secular political philosophy and communities of faith.

Taking Faith Seriously offers nine case studies that describe the multiple and subtle roles that religion plays on many levels in our civic life: increasing moral and social "capital," inspiring citizens to serve their neighbors, building relationships across barriers of race and income, and providing a moral vision of what kind of society we are called to be.

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About the Author:

Mary Jo Bane is the Thornton Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Management in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Brent Coffin is Director of the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations’ Program on Religion and Public Life at Harvard University.

Richard Higgins is a writer and editor.

Review:

To the editors of Taking Faith Seriously, the mutual interdependence of the religious and the secular allows us to avoid the extremes of 'faith-based boosterism' and 'dogmatic secularism'...Were they to avoid this coarsening polarization, Americans could find common ground on some of the most contentious issues of the day...Secularists ought to extend rights of recognition to believers, and believers ought to understand that liberal pluralism includes a place for them. Taking Faith Seriously offers a series of case studies designed to demonstrate that the always tricky and sometimes unsolvable puzzles posed by faith in a liberal democracy can best be addressed by appreciating the role that religion actually plays in concrete circumstances. (Alan Wolfe New Republic 2005-05-23)

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