Taking Rites Seriously is about how religious beliefs and religious believers are assessed by judges and legal scholars and are sometimes mischaracterized and misunderstood by those who are critical of the influence of religion in politics or in the formation of law. Covering three general topics - reason and motive, dignity and personhood, nature and sex - philosopher and legal theorist Francis J. Beckwith carefully addresses several contentious legal and cultural questions over which religious and non-religious citizens often disagree: the rationality of religious belief, religiously motivated legislation, human dignity in bioethics, abortion and embryonic stem cell research, reproductive rights and religious liberty, evolutionary theory, and the nature of marriage. In the process, he responds to some well-known critics of public faith - including Brian Leiter, Steven Pinker, Suzanna Sherry, Ronald Dworkin, John Rawls, and Richard Dawkins - as well as to some religiously conservative critics of secularism, such as the advocates for intelligent design.
Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University, where he also serves as Associate Director of the Graduate Program in Philosophy and Co-Director (with Trent Dougherty) of the Program in Philosophical Studies of Religion. He has held visiting faculty appointments at Princeton University and the University of Notre Dame and has published extensively on social ethics, applied ethics, legal philosophy, and the philosophy of religion. Named the 2007 Person of the Year by Inside the Vatican magazine, his most recent books include Politics for Christians: Statecraft As Soulcraft (2010) and Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case against Abortion Choice (2007).
1. Introduction: faith seeking understanding; Part I. Reason and Motive: 2. Fides, ratio et juris: how some courts and some legal theorists misrepresent the rational status of religious beliefs; 3. Theological exclusionary rule: the judicial misuse of religious motives; Part II. Dignity and Personhood: 4. Dignity never been photographed: bioethics, policy, and Steven Pinker's materialism; 5. Personhood, prenatal life, and religious belief; Part III. Nature and Sex: 6. How to be an anti-intelligent design advocate: science, religion, and the problem of intelligent design; 7. Same-sex marriage and justificatory liberalism: religious liberty, comprehensive doctrines, and public life; 8. Conclusion: taking rites seriously.