This paper asserts that the discourse of religious accommodation has stopped making sense, and that the reason it has stopped making sense is because our terminology (including such terms as "religion," "accommodation," and "secularism") is inherited from tradition of political theological discourse that has been forgotten: the theology of divine accommodation. The paper reconstructs the content of that tradition of political theology in broad strokes, arguing that the birthplace of secularism and the birthplace of liberalism both lie here and that, once we recognize that, a number of doctrinal and conceptual puzzles can be solved, including how to define religion, whether to characterize secular humanism as a religion, and whether to accept the broad (virtually boundless) conception of a right to religious accommodation now being promoted by religious conservatives. The answers proposed are that (a) religion, from the standpoint of this tradition of political theology, refers to beliefs about the content and source of the moral law, and is not contingent on continued belief in a deity; (b) secular humanism is a religion in this sense, and is indeed the religion promoted by accommodationist political theology; (c) the broad conception of a right to religious accommodation must be rejected for the same reasons that the "religion" of secular humanism must be accepted. The paper further argues, as a matter of political theory/history of political thought, that locating the origins of liberalism and secularism in the tradition of divine accommodation reveals conservative political theology and liberal political theory to be one and the same. Finally, it underscores the centrality of law to the humanist tradition and the centrality of humanism to law.
Law | Law and Politics | Law and Society | Religion Law
Date of this Version
Nomi Stolzenberg, "From Eternity to Here: Divine Accommodation and the Lost Language of Law" (September 2018). University of Southern California Legal Studies Working Paper Series. Working Paper 274.