This “religion in the public sphere” thread has featured debates about whether citizens of liberal democratic societies can offer religious reasons for public laws that will be coercive on all citizens, or whether they must use, in John Rawls’s terms, “public reason.” . . . This normative debate is about what people should do in public debates, but knowing what people actually do would allow theorists to develop greater nuance in their analyses. When we see what people actually do, we can further inquire as to whether there are social structures that are pushing people toward good or bad behavior. For example, it is possible that the normative structure of the contemporary public sphere works so strongly against certain normative proposals that they should just be abandoned as utopian. Moreover, it is possible that we may gain normative wisdom from the collective practices of citizens. In any event, given the many hundreds of normative analyses, some empirical examinations may usefully agitate the debate.Read the rest of An empirical perspective on religious and secular reasons.
John H. Evans
John H. Evans is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego. His research focuses on religion, culture, politics, and science. He is the author of Playing God? Human Genetic Engineering and the Rationalization of Public Bioethical Debate (University of Chicago Press, 2002) and Contested Reproduction: Genetic Technologies, Religion and Public Debate (University of Chicago Press, 2010). He is beginning work on a project empirically examining the use of religious and secular reasons in public and private. Read John H. Evans' contribution to The naked public sphere?
Posts by John H. Evans:
We need to be clear about what is happening in the field before advocating for any specific changes. To that end, I would like to look at Smilde and May’s findings through a thicker interpretive lens. The sociology of religion has actually changed very little in the past thirty years. For example, the number of religion articles in top journals and the percentage of those articles focused specifically on Christianity, Protestantism, and the US, have remained constant. While some of the changes reported in the paper are shown to be statistically significant, they are often so small as to be substantively insignificant. So, rather than reacting to a supposed change in the sub-discipline, we should instead be debating whether we want to change what is, by all appearances, a relatively stable field.Read the rest of Not much has changed—and should it?.