Intellectual humility and religious conviction are often posed as antagonistic binaries; the former associated with science, reason, inclusive universality, and liberal secularism, the latter with superstition, dogma, exclusive particularity, and rigid traditionalism. Despite popular images of white American evangelicals as the embodied antithesis of intellectual humility, responsiveness to facts, and openness to the other, this article demonstrates how evangelicals can and do practice intellectual humility in public life while simultaneously holding fast to particularistic religious convictions. Drawing on textual analysis and multi-site ethnographic data, it demonstrates how observed evangelical practices of transposable and segmented reflexivity map onto pluralist, domain-specific conceptualizations of intellectual humility in the philosophical and psychological literature. It further argues that the effective practice of intellectual humility in the interests of ethical democracy does not require religious actors to abandon particularistic religious reasons for universal secular ones. Rather, particularistic religious convictions can motivate effective practices of intellectual humility and thereby support democratic pluralism, inclusivity, and solidarity across difference. More broadly, it aims to challenge, or at least complicate, the widespread notion that increasing strength of religious conviction always moves in lockstep with increasing dogmatism, tribalism, and intellectual unreasonableness.
This work was supported by the Carleton College Humanities Center, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, and the Louisville Institute Dissertation Fellowship funded by the Religion Division of Lilly Endowment. Thanks to Ruth Braunstein, Michael Lynch, and participants in the “Religious Conviction and Intellectual Humility in Public Life” workshop at the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute, and to Annette Nierobisz, Ross Elfline, Palmar Álvarez-Blanco, Anna Moltchanova, Juliane Schicker, Kathryn Wegner, and PPST reviewers for many helpful comments on earlier versions.
Markofski, W. (2019), "Reflexive Evangelicalism", Religion, Humility, and Democracy in a Divided America (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 36), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 47-74. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0198-871920190000036004
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