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Philosophers, Politicians and Archbishops: Religious Reasons in the Public Sphere

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image of International Journal of Public Theology

The Nicholas Wolterstorff-Robert Audi debate surrounding the role of religious reasons in public debate remains unresolved in the United States. Alternatively, but relatedly, when politicians and Archbishops in the UK mention God the media react with force. This article seeks a more balanced reaction to the faith of politicians and Archbishops and a solution to the Wolterstorff-Audi debate. First, this article teases out the extent to which John Macmurray's philosophy of community is or is not evident in New Labour politics; secondly, it expounds Macmurray's alternative ‘communitarianism’ by examining his account of church-state relations; thirdly, it introduces the philosophical notion of supervenience to provide a proper account of the relation between religious reasons and secular reasons in public debate and, finally, it provides an example of a ‘community’ that satisfies the essential criteria of Macmurray's definition. Thus, in addition to revealing the contemporary relevance of Macmurray's work and the misunderstandings surrounding the notion of community, this article engages with an ongoing international conversation on the ethics of religious voices in public places and proposes a solution to the Wolterstorff-Audi debate.

Affiliations: 1: University of Leeds, UK and York St John University, UK


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