Research Handbook on Law and Religion
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Research Handbook on Law and Religion

Edited by Rex Ahdar

Offering an interdisciplinary, international and philosophical perspective, this comprehensive Research Handbook explores both perennial and recent legal issues that concern the modern state and its interaction with religious communities and individuals.
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Chapter 3: Equality, religion, and nihilism

Steven D Smith


Equality is the master political concept of our age, and a concept that more and more seems to be the master of our age: the startlingly rapid acceptance of same-sex marriage (or ‘marriage equality’, as the question-begging label would have it) is just one dramatic manifestation. This chapter explores various dimensions of equality by considering the complex and conflicted relationship between equality and religion. Religion and equality relate to each other as parent to child: their relationship is sometimes cordial, sometimes detached or estranged, sometimes openly antagonistic. Detached from its religious roots, the chapter suggests, equality has made positive contributions to modern society, but it also has the potential to be a sort of political and cultural bulldozer – or an engine of nihilism.

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