Taking Religion Seriously? Habermas on Religious Translation and Cooperative Learning in Post-secular Society
by Giorgi Areshidze, Claremont McKenna College
This article evaluates Jürgen Habermas’s attempt to reopen political liberalism to religion. In trying to “take religion seriously,” Habermas goes further than John Rawls and other liberal theorists by affirming that religious traditions articulate truths on which democratic societies continue to depend for their civic and moral health. “Post-secular” societies, in his view, should learn from religion by translating its “moral intuitions” into universal secular language. Although Habermas in this way appears friendlier to religion than Rawls, unlike Rawls he also calls for the “modernization of religious consciousness.” This theological transformation not only reveals the foundationalist presuppositions of liberalism, but also points to a highly attenuated conception of learning from religion. Taking religion seriously will require us to be open to its insights not only when they agree with, but especially when they challenge, our secular presuppositions. This dimension of religion is at risk of getting “lost in translation” in the Habermasian paradigm.