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30 Cardozo L. Rev. 2473 (2008-2009)
Freedom and Faith - Foundations of Freedom of Religion

handle is hein.journals/cdozo30 and id is 2491 raw text is: FREEDOM AND FAITH-FOUNDATIONS OF
Matthias Mahlmann*
Human religiosity has taken many forms in history, and there is no
less variety in contemporary culture. There are many contentious issues
in the religious systems that exist-for example, the number and nature
of divine forces, their relationship to the world, the proper path to
redemption and the justification of human lives and deeds. There is,
however, a common thread in all these debates: religion is not an
ornamental side issue of human life; religion forms a central existential
Human religiosity has manifold consequences: It still inspires
today impressive moral deeds and is at the root of some of the greatest
achievements of humankind's aesthetic creativity. Religion can also
lead to great human tragedies, as people are prepared to give their lives
for religious matters and also to sacrifice the lives of others in the
pursuit of some religious idea.
Not only religion accompanies human civilization since its
existence. The critique of religion is as old as human reflection itself
and forms another thread of human culture.     The most powerful
challenge to the foundations of religions was and still is formulated in
modem times by the rise of natural sciences with their new explanations
about the structure and origin of the world and the place human beings
enjoy in it. Of course, there are many attempts to reconcile religion and
science. But there are other sources of doubt as well: The historical
interpretation and analysis of holy texts put their literal authority in
question. The religious philosophy of the Enlightenment formulated
critiques of Christianity and of religion in general, establishing with
some self-confidence the epistemological priority of reason over belief.
These developments had important political dimensions. They were not
only a theoretical chapter in the history of ideas. They nourished major
secular political movements on whose agenda the overcoming of the
* Prof. Dr. Matthias Mahlmann, Chair of Legal Theory, Legal Sociology and International
Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Zurich. This article is based on talks at King's
College, London, the University of Oxford and Harvard Law School. For a German language
version of these arguments, see Matthias Mahlmann, Ethische Duldsamkeit und Glauben, in EIN
Mahlmann & Hubert Rottleuthner eds., 2006).


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