Religion and the Ritual of Public Discourse1

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What role should religion play in public discourse? Not long ago Richard Rorty argued, in more than one place, that religion is a "conversation stopper" which polite people refer to only in private conversations. Religious believers complain, however, that this practice renders it impossible for them to participate in public discourse. They ask whether a democratic community is worthy of the name if it effectively forbids (by custom or legislation) a significant segment of its citizens from acknowledging and drawing upon their own traditions to help justify their moral and political claims? This paper draws upon the work of Jeffrey Stout, Robert Brandom, and importantly a Confucian understanding of ritual to argue that Rorty goes too far in arguing that religious assumptions have no place in public discourse.
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