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 5: Dworkin’s religion and the end of religious liberty

Joel Harrison


This chapter critically explores Ronald Dworkin’s understanding of religion, developed in the posthumously published Religion Without God, and religious liberty. Dworkin characterizes religion as a quest potentially shared by both theist and atheist – to seek value and live an authentic life. This then supports his general political morality, in which the civil authority is tasked with respecting the ethical independence of individuals, rather than any special right to religious liberty. The chapter contends that Dworkin is consequently proposing an account of ‘true religion’, which asks: what is religion’s end and how is this end related to political authority? It then contrasts this account with arguments from Augustine. For Augustine, the end of religion is love of God and neighbour, an orientation towards charity and solidarity. Religious liberty can then be understood as a vehicle for a different understanding of the civil authority’s task: recognizing this endeavour in its multiple contexts.

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