Religious Reasons and Public Reason: Recalibrating Ireland’s Benevolent Secularism

  •  Joseph Rivera    


Liberal regimes in the West are not homogeneous in their application of secular principles. What kind of “secular” state a particular government promotes depends in large part on the strength and influence of the majority religion in that region. This article acknowledges the heuristic value of a recent threefold taxonomy of secularism: passive, assertive, and benevolent forms of secularism. I take issue with and challenge certain institutional privileges granted to the majority religion in one benevolently secular regime, the Republic of Ireland. I consider how benevolent secularism, while remaining benevolent toward religion, can align its application of secularism in the arena of publicly-funded education (primary and secondary education). A politically liberal regime, defined by the idea of public reason, invokes the principle of publicity, namely, that discourse and public policy be intelligible (and acceptable to a large degree) not only to an individual’s religious or moral community but also to the broader collection of members who constitute a liberal state. Drawing on John Rawls’ conception of public reason, and using Ireland as a case study, I show how this particular state-religion interrelation can be recalibrated in order to increase the prospects of reconciliation with a secular space of public reason.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1918-7173
  • ISSN(Online): 1918-7181
  • Started: 2009
  • Frequency: quarterly

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