Secularism and Freedom of Conscience

The Rev. Dr. Michael Jinkins,
President of Louisville Presbyterian
Theological Seminary and
Professor of Theology. 
There is an interesting review of Jocelyn Maclure and Charles Taylor's essay, Secularism and Freedom of Conscience by Michael Jinkins on his blog Thinking Out Loud.

Jinkins applauds Maclure and Taylor and then makes a couple of points that sound (without having read the original) as though they quite undermine their thesis.

He points to a risk in the essayists' approach that their method could lead to "treating one another's differences of conviction and conscience as mere matters of individual taste and preference." This can only trivialise our real differences.

Instead he suggests two other starting points. First:
that the reason we are confronted with so many ways of accounting for ultimate meaning is not because of our finitude or ignorance, but because there really are a variety of ways to be faithfully and fully human.
And, second:
... as humans we do not disinterestedly choose from among a range of axiological options, but are formed in and through communities that that believe certain things in certain ways and value particular things and ideas in particular ways.
We must learn to speak from within our different cultural and religious communities—the very communities that divide us— if we are to learn and to be heard. The great challenge of our time is to live and flourish together though we are different in important respects, but similar in ways that are just as important. To succeed at this critical endeavor, we must acknowledge how the groups and communities that shape us value certain ends and not others. We will not convince one another of our mutual rights to live and practice our faith (or our right to claim no faith at all) as long as we regard one another merely as atomistic ideological or religious consumers.

Amen. But, as with all liberal-minded approaches, it is not sufficient. How can these starting points, which I would endorse, deal with those who reject Jinkins' tenets? How should we respond to organised groups which would use violence of any kind to destroy groups with whom they disagree? 

These are not questions antithetical to the starting points Jinkins lays out. They are questions as to how such liberal values can be taken into alien territory without losing their integrity.

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