Monotheism and Tolerance
Recovering a Religion of Reason
Publication Year: 2010
Why are religious tolerance and pluralism so difficult to achieve? Why is the often violent fundamentalist backlash against them so potent? Robert Erlewine looks to a new religion of reason for answers to these questions. Drawing on Enlightenment writers Moses Mendelssohn, Immanuel Kant, and Hermann Cohen, who placed Christianity and Judaism in tension with tolerance and pluralism, Erlewine finds a way to break the impasse, soften hostilities, and establish equal relationships with the Other. Erlewine's recovery of a religion of reason stands in contrast both to secularist critics of religion who reject religion for the sake of reason and to contemporary religious conservatives who eschew reason for the sake of religion. Monotheism and Tolerance suggests a way to deal with the intractable problem of religiously motivated and justified violence.
Published by: Indiana University Press
As this project comes to completion, I am struck by the good fortune I have enjoyed in the years I have been working on it. It is hard to express in a few paragraphs the debts I owe and the gratitude I feel toward so many, for their support, insight, and generosity. But I will try...
Part One. Overcoming the Current Crisis
1 Monotheism, Tolerance, and Pluralism: The Current Impasse
The contemporary values of tolerance and pluralism, so often the object of unhesitating praise, nevertheless pose significant challenges for religious life, at least as it is commonly understood by many major religious traditions. If the religious adherent cedes too much to these...
2 Learning from the Past: Introducing the Thinkers of the Religion of Reason
John Hick’s and Jürgen Habermas’s philosophical attempts to ground religious pluralism and/or tolerance, and thus to undercut monotheistic intolerance, are ultimately descended from the Enlightenment project of using reason to domesticate religion. Indeed, I will argue, both are very much descendants of Kant’s own project of reconfiguring the na-...
Part Two. Mendelssohn: Idolatry and Indiscernibility
3 Mendelssohn and the Repudiation of Divine Tyranny
History has not been particularly kind to Moses Mendelssohn, the ‘father’ of modern Jewish thought. While a famous metaphysician, religious reformer, literary critic, and polemicist in his own day, Mendelssohn’s legacy has largely been relegated to intellectual history. Not only were...
4 Monotheism and the Indiscernible Other
We concluded the last chapter by recognizing the seemingly intractable nature of the difficulties of reconciling Mendelssohn’s notion of Halakhah and election with cultural egalitarianism. At this point, the two poles of Mendelssohn...
Part Three. Kant: Religious Tolerance
5 Radical Evil and the Mire of Unsocial Sociability
If Mendelssohn’s efforts within the religion of reason trajectory are concentrated upon rendering the Other indiscernible and thereby problematizing the automatic characterization of the Other as an idolater, Kant’s energies are marshaled in a very different direction. Kant incorporates an awareness of the finitude of human knowledge as well as a radi-...
6 Kant and the Religion of Tolerance
Kant’s account of the ethical commonwealth is particularly tantalizing in the context of our investigation. This is so because it concerns the climactic realization of the teleological trajectory of history in which a radically new, non-violent ethical order emerges upon the earth, but also...
Part Four Cohen: Ethical Intolerance
7 Cohen and the Monotheism of Correlation
Hermann Cohen is the third and most successful member of the religion of reason trajectory.1 Cohen’s approach to the problematic intolerance inherent in the monotheistic worldview constitutes a significant departure from the respective approaches of Mendelssohn and Kant. What...
8 Rational Supererogation and the Suffering Servant
We explored how Cohen’s notion of correlation, particularly the correlation between God and human beings, serves as an especially fruitful framework for harmonizing particularity and universality, as well as scriptural universalism and rational universalism. Through the dialectical unfolding of the process of scriptural universalism in history (or at least the progression of ...
Conclusion: Revelation, Reason, and the Legacy of the Enlightenment
Our contemporary world-historical situation is characterized by the increased interaction of cultural and social communities with contradictory and often mutually exclusive worldviews. The plurality of worldviews and ways of life is of course not new, but this interaction between different cultures and communities is becoming an increasingly regular experience. The...