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Title

The Authority of the Holy Revisited: Habermas, Religion, and Emancipatory Possibilities

Abstract

This article argues that Jürgen Habermas's view of religion as anathema to rational critical discourse reflects his misunderstanding that religion comprises a monolithic and immutable body of dogma that is closed to reason. Illustrative data from Catholic history and theology and empirical data gathered from contemporary American Catholics are used to show the weaknesses in Habermas's negation of the possibility of a self-critical religious discourse. Specifically, I highlight the doctrinal differentiation within Catholicism, its longstanding theological emphasis on the coupling of faith and reason, institutional reflexivity, and the doctrinally reflexive reasoning that contemporary Catholics use in negotiating what might appear as “contradictory” identities (e.g., being gay or lesbian and Catholic). Although the data presented take issue with Habermas's disavowal of religion, the article shows that the practical relevance of doctrinal reasoning at both the institutional and the individual level vindicate Habermas's faith in the emancipatory potential of reasoned argumentation to advance participative equality.

Publication Date

11-1-1999

Journal Title

Sociological Theory

Publisher

Wiley

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/0735-2751.00081

Document Type

Article

Rights

American Sociological Association 1999

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