Faith-Based Medicine for Fractured Nations
[A] first observation is that there is nothing inherent in religious rationales that prevents them from being the subject of meaningful and constructive conversations about fundamental matters of justice. Leaders from diverse religious or secular perspectives can seek to find an overlapping consensus on truth commissions, trials, and reparations, just as they might seek to find common ground on global warming, reducing their country's debt, or protecting the rights of women. They can reach consensus if they agree to hear and to be heard, to explain their view to others as best they can, to try to understand others' view as best they can, and to find agreement where possible. They need make no prior agreement, explicit or implicit, to express themselves only through reason, natural law, secular language, or any other lingua franca, though of course they may draw on any of these modes of reasoning and communication. What makes common ground possible are areas of overlap in the interlocutors' scriptures, traditions, and teachings and, of course, their goodwill and ability to communicate their ideas. The possibility of overlap, of course, depends a great deal on which religious, tribal, or philosophical traditions are involved in the conversation, which representatives of these traditions are involved, and what issue is being discussed. After all, virtually every tradition has an "internal pluralism" of diverse voices. It is impossible to say ... how much consensus on what issues can be attained, but there is no reason in principle why religious people cannot achieve such a consensus.
A second observation runs in a different direction: The constructive potential of religion is also furthered when religious people (or members of any tradition for that matter) acknowledge a moral obligation to engage the arguments of members of other traditions and views. The value realized through dialogue is respect. In part, it is the coercive nature of law that demands the respect that dialogue promotes, as both public justification proponents and opponents such as [philosopher Christopher] Eberle aver. Through dialogue, interlocutors put reasons behind laws and their enforcement. Dialogue also promotes respect in a different sense. In deliberating, democratic citizens respect one another's dignity as beings capable of reasoning, communicating, arguing, reflecting, revising, and acting accordingly. Respect is undermined when a religious believer—or anyone of any point of view—proceeds simply by fiat, feeling, or otherwise failing to put reasons into play.
The moral values of respect implies an obligation to offer reasons to others who are of a different tradition or who may simply disagree. It does not imply an obligation either to agree or to succeed in persuasion. Sometimes democratic deliberation will increase the sphere of overlapping views, but sometimes it will not. It may bring one or both sides to rethink its views in small or in large part. Deliberators must always consider a proposed overlapping view from the perspective of their convictions, asking whether they can endorse it. When they decide that they cannot, they are free as ever to vote, lobby, urge, and bargain according to their beliefs. ...
The approach that I have been articulating is, in elaborated form, what I [call] rooted reason. It is rooted because it invites religious believers (or any other believers) to present their full rationales—untruncated, unsanitized, and unfiltered. Yet it also asks them to enter a dialogue in which they pursue mutual understanding with those of different views. Among the fruits of deep dialogue, particularly important is overlapping consensus. The ethic depends crucially on (empirical) legitimacy: The wider the set of people who endorse it and the more deeply they hold the belief, the more likely it is to succeed. When proponents of an ethic of reconciliation not only offer their deepest reasons for the ethic but also communicate it and seek to win assent for it from people of different religious or philosophical persuasions, the overlapping consensus for it is expanded.