On the dialogue with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI)
In early 2007, Ignatius Press published a dialogue between Habermas and Roman Catholic Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), entitled The Dialectics of Secularization.
It addresses such important contemporary questions as these:
* Is a public culture of reason and ordered liberty possible in our post-metaphysical age?
* Is philosophy permanently cut adrift from its grounding in being and anthropology?
* Does this decline of rationality signal an opportunity or a deep crisis for religion itself?
In this debate a recent shift of Habermas became evident — in particular, his rethinking of the public role of religion. Habermas writes as a “methodological atheist,” which means that when doing philosophy or social science, he presumes nothing about particular religious beliefs. Yet while writing from this perspective his evolving position towards the role of religion in society has led him to some challenging questions, and as a result conceding some ground in his dialogue with the Pope, that would seem to have consequences which further complicate the positions he holds about a communicative rational solution to the problems of modernity.
In an interview in 1999 Habermas stated that,
"For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. And in light of the current challenges of a post-national constellation, we must draw sustenance now, as in the past, from this substance. Everything else is idle postmodern talk."
The statement was later misquoted in a number of American newspapers and magazines as: "Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization," which Habermas did not say...
Habermas now talks about the emergence of "post-secular societies" and argues that tolerance is a two-way street: secular people need to tolerate the role of religious people in the public square and vice versa.
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