WITNESSING AS AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH OF RELIGIOUS TRUTH. A COMMENT ON RAWLS’S IDEA OF COMPREHENSIVE DOCTRINES
JOHN RAWLS’S POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
Keywords:witnessing, religious truth, comprehensive doctrine, authoritarianism, intolerance, background culture, proviso, pluralism, Charles Taylor, modernization theory
The paper offers a critical examination of the term ‘reasonable comprehensive doctrines’, which is a key term in Rawls’s Political Liberalism. It is argued that this term is not accurate anymore to catch the current shape of religious and secular worldviews and the nature of their truth claims, because it focuses too much on the doctrinal character of religious truth, which plays a central role in Christianity but not in many other religions and secular worldviews. However, sociologists of religion and philo- sopher Charles Taylor have pointed out that a shift in people’s attitude towards religion has been taking place since the last decades of the twentieth century, resulting in a more existential and less doctrinal approach to religious truth. This focus on ‘lived religion’, inspiring the faithful put their lives in the sign of (the truth of) these doctrines, explains why Rawls’s doctrinal approach falls short of expectations in finding a response to the challenge of religious pluralism. Yet, in the conclusion of this paper it is shown that Rawls also values witnessing as an alternative, more existential approach to religious truth, although it plays a rather marginal role in his work.
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