Reason, Religion, and Democracy

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"The rise of religious fundamentalism in different parts of the world in recent years and its association with terrorism has led to a renewed interest in the nature of religion and its compatibility with Western institutions. Much of the focus of this new interest has contrasted religion and science as two different systems of knowledge. This book also emphasizes the difference between religion and science as a means for understanding causal relationships, but it focuses more on the challenge religious extremism poses for liberal democratic institutions." This book contains a discussion of human psychology, describes the salient characteristics of all religions, and contrasts religion and science as systems of thought. Historical sketches are used to link modernity and the use of the human capacity for reasoning to advance human welfare, The book describes the conditions under which democratic institutions can advance human welfare and the nature of constitutional rights as protectors of individual freedoms. Extremist religions are shown to pose a threat to liberal democracy, a threat that has implications for immigration, education policies, and the definition of citizenship.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Mueller’s new book tackles a very large question and approaches it with a very broad, but very fine brush. The first half of the book provides a biological explanation for the origin of both reason and religion and explores how reason and religion have affected the development of civilization and have, in turn, been affected by those civilizations. The second half of the book links religion and rationality to issues in contemporary politics. It focuses on such issues as the relationship between education, religion, and democracy; the effects of emigration; and constitutional design. I am impressed by the book and with the project itself. I found myself broadly sympathetic with the book’s arguments and conclusions, and even where I disagree, the arguments are interesting and provocative.”
–Roger Congleton, George Mason University

“In addition to a wide-ranging and insightful discussion of religion and its history, Dennis Mueller analyzes religious intolerance and its lack of correlation with liberal democracy. One of the lessons in the book is that a competitive, “private” market in religion is an institutional means of keeping such intolerance in check. Monopoly in religion, like elsewhere, is not very forgiving. Mueller is well known for his work in other areas; he is a major economist. In my view this is his best book. Those of you who know his other works realize that this is a strong endorsement indeed.”
–Robert Tollison, Clemson University

“Dennis Mueller reworks enlightenment themes, offering a wide-ranging and provocative defense of the values of reason and liberal democracy and a critique of the role of religion: wide-ranging in terms of both ideas deployed and historical contexts considered; provocative in treating both religious fundamentalism of all forms and religious diversity as threats to liberal democracy.”
–Alan Hamlin, University of Manchester

“This is bound to be a controversial book. Mueller argues for consideration of restricted franchise – with only those ‘with more education or loyalty to the state’ forming the electorate. He questions the wisdom of the ‘freedom to educate one’s children as one pleases’ and raises doubts about relatively open immigration policies. He underlines what he sees as a basic tension between religion (the ‘antithesis of science’) and liberal democracy. Above all, it is a courageous book, tackling difficult and tender questions about how the delicate balance between liberalism and democracy can best be managed. Not everyone will agree with his position. But everyone should agree that the challenges he points to are genuine and highly significant in the contemporary world.”
–Geoffrey Brennan, Australian National University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521115018
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 8/24/2009
  • Pages: 460
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Dennis C. Mueller is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Vienna. His main research interests are public choice, industrial economics, and constitutional political economy. He is the author of many articles and several books, including Public Choice III (Cambridge University Press, 2003), The Corporation (2003), and Constitutional Democracy (1996). Mueller is a past president of the U.S. and European Public Choice Societies, the Southern Economic Association, the Industrial Organization Society, the European Association for Research in Industrial Economics, and the International Joseph A. Schumpeter Society.

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Table of Contents

1 Liberal Democracy 1

Pt. I Fundamentals: Evolution, Psychology, Reasoning, and Religion

2 Evolution, Psychology, and Reason 31

3 Religion 51

Pt. II A Historical Look at the State, Democracy, and Religion

4 The First States 79

5 Athens and Rome 93

6 The Caliphate 116

7 The Renaissance 136

8 The Enlightenment 159

9 Religion and Democracy After the French Revolution 197

Epilogue to Part Two 235

Pt. III The Institutions of Liberal Democracy

10 Democracy and Citizenship 239

11 Rights 271

12 Education, Citizenship, Immigration, and Democracy 316

Pt. IV Challenges to Liberal Democracy

13 Democracy and Religion 355

14 Building and Protecting Liberal Democracy 400

References 419

Author Index 437

Subject Index 442

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