Religion among We the People

Conversations on Democracy and the Divine Good

By Franklin I. Gamwell

Subjects: Religion, Ethics, Philosophy, Theology, Metaphysics
Paperback : 9781438458083, 256 pages, July 2016
Hardcover : 9781438458076, 256 pages, November 2015

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Table of contents

1. Consent to Religious Freedom: The Legacy of Thomas Jefferson
The Present Question
Jefferson’s Answers
Refining the Question
Reason’s Tribunal
Jefferson’s Legacy
2. On Constitutional Authority: A Conversation with David Strauss
The Living Constitution
Jefferson’s Question: Hermeneutical and Normative
The Tradition of Popular Sovereignty
Advancing the Tradition
3. Democracy and Nature’s God: The Legacy of Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln’s Political Sentiments
The Declaration’s Laws of Nature
The Almighty’s Purposes
The House Divided
Lincoln’s Legacy
4. On Religion in the Public Sphere: A Conversation with Jürgen Habermas
The Institutional Proviso
Habermas’s Proposal: A Critique
Habermas and Rawls: The Basic Problem
The Better Solution
The Attachment to Democracy
5. On the Humanitarian Ideal: The Promise of Neoclassical Metaphysics
Kantian and Post-Enlightenment Challenges
Metaphysics and Human Purpose
Making the Humanitarian Ideal Explicit
6. Reinhold Niebuhr’s Theistic Ethic: The Law of Love
Niebuhr’s Systematic Project
Niebuhr’s Ethic: Harmony and Sacrificial Love
Niebuhr’s Ethic: A Critique
Niebuhr’s Intentions Revisited
7. On the Loss of Theism: A Conversation with Iris Murdoch
Emphatic Moral Realism
Good without God
The Loss of Worth
The Necessity of God
Works Cited

Explores democracy with religious freedom and its dependence on theism.


Franklin I. Gamwell holds that democracy with religious freedom is dependent on metaphysical theism. Democratic politics can be neutral to all religious convictions only if its constitution establishes a full and free discourse about the ultimate terms of justice and their application to decisions of the state, and the divine good is the true ground of justice. Notably, Gamwell's view challenges virtually all current accounts of democracy with religious freedom. This uncommon position emerges through a series of essays in which Gamwell engages a variety of conversation partners, including Thomas Jefferson, David Strauss, Abraham Lincoln, Jürgen Habermas, Alfred North Whitehead, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Iris Murdoch. Discussions of Jefferson, Lincoln, and the US Constitution illustrate the promise of neoclassical metaphysics as a context for interpreting US history. Gamwell then defends his metaphysics against both modern refusals of metaphysics and accounts of ultimate reality offered by Niebuhr and Murdoch.

Franklin I. Gamwell is Shailer Mathews Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Religious Ethics, Theology, and Philosophy of Religion at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. His many books include Existence and the Good: Metaphysical Necessity in Morals and Politics and The Meaning of Religious Freedom: Modern Politics and the Democratic Resolution, both also published by SUNY Press.