Why tolerate religion

Why tolerate religion? It’s a question First Things explores and it’s one culturally we’re almost ready to ask:

In a secular legal system, a central feature of religions —what I will call their suprarationality —provides the ultimate legal justification for protecting religious exercise. Suprarationality is more than insulation from reason and evidence (which Leiter thinks is a defining feature of religion). Rather it refers to beliefs— and acts pursuant to them— that aren’t defensible by reasoned argument alone nor in conflict with conclusions attainable by reason. It presupposes rationality but goes beyond it. Protecting religion ultimately means protecting human beings’ experience of the suprarational.

Suprarationality justifies the legal protection of religion because it marks a limit of the proper domain of any secular legal system. It allows that there is something more to existence than what law can reach. The legal system, after all, operates within the realm of the rational. So it should be limited to policies it can justify in rational terms. Legal systems, then, have no business regulating or discounting the suprarational. In fact, they have affirmative reasons not to interfere in or dismiss the suprarational. In this sense, suprarationality operates as an external and a constitutive limit of the secular legal system. It would clearly be a transgression of the limits of the legal to command or forbid acts that are suprarational in nature.

“There is something more to existence than what law can reach.”

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