Directions (Q.1 - 10): Read the following passage carefully and answer the questions. Certain words/ phrases are given in bold to help you locate them while answering some of the questions.
The American public sphere is blessed with many religious experts. In the midst of the Syrian refugee crisis, pundits reminded us that Christianity enjoins the welcoming of refugees. Many of the same people, it turns out, are also deeply familiar with Islam, allowing them to piously intone that it is a 'religion of peace'. These claims often come from people who are not themselves affiliated with those faiths or any other: they are political interventions masquerading, sometimes insultingly, as exegesis. They serve an important function, however, as a form of wish fulfilment. If these pat, nervous descriptions of long and complex religious traditions were true, the age-old problem of religion in the square could vanish into a puff of banalities. Peace and refuges assistance are perfectly good secular, progressive goals, and it would be convenient if Christianity and Islam, which long antedate secular progressivism, happened to enjoin the same things. Alas, the world is not so simple. But what, then, are to do? What should we expect from religion in a secular society?
The conservative position on religiosity has the virtue of coherence: America, from this perspective, is a Christian nation. Even if other religions should be tolerated in the name of Christian charity, they should cede pride of place to America's exceptional Christian heritage. Progressives have a much more difficult time, and we ricochet between contradictory and unsustainable positions. On the one hand, religion is transparently absurd, but on the other the triumphant atheism of Richard Dawkins is embarrassing, too. When someone such as Kim Davis forces us to confront difficult issues of law and faith, we often have recourse of uncomfortable mockery, unsure why it is wrong to disobey political authority in the name of individual conscience. The old Marxist account of religion as an "opiate of the people" survives, too, in the conventional wisdom that evangelical voters cling to guns and religion because they are distracted from their true economic interests. These attempts to sidestep the question of religion's role are dangerous but understandable. The great philosopher Richard Rorty once sighed that religion was a conversation-stopper: If someone claims to be acting for religious, what is there to say? If he were alive today, he would know that if we cease talking about religious we start shouting about it.
For decades, the persistence of religious violence and discrimination was largely outsourced to social scientists, who told us that religious would either vanish altogether or become privatized as societies industrialized. As these predictions have proven faulty, scholars have been going back to the drawing board. In the last year, there have appeared a number of books eager to help us out of this quandary: What, they ask, is the proper place of religion in a democratic society? How can people live together if they have fundamental, irreconcilable beliefs about the nature of the universe?
One answer is to simply declare outright that there is no such place. This is not at all a new position, but previous attempts to police the public sphere in this way have proven both politically and intellectually ineffective. The political theorist Carlo Invernizzzi Accetti's bracing new book, Relativism and religion: Why Democratic Societies Do Not Need Moral Absolutes, provides a novel and powerful approach. Accetti does not simply dismiss religion in the name of a secular, rationalist of ethics or democratic legitimacy. He would not try to prove Kim Davis wrong and explain why marriage law should be secular. Instead, he argues that only a revived form of philosophical relativism can get us out of the secular-religious bind. He takes religious arguments very seriously, and devotes a good portion of the book to a patient reconstruction of the Roman Catholic arguments against relativism. He thinks that religious critics of relativism are wrong, but in the process he makes the more startling claim that secular critics of relativism are wrong, too.