This chapter offers a speculative essay regarding how religion may foster intellectual humility in public life, drawing on case studies from faith-based community organizing in the United States. and liberation theology in Latin America. Despite a plethora of religious teaching about the virtue of humility across a variety of traditions, I do not think there is anything inherent in religious belief – in any tradition – that predisposes believers toward authentic humility in their personal or public lives. I argue instead that religious conviction – when embodied in particular kinds of religious practice – does help drive us toward the balance of confidence and intellectual humility required for vigorous engagement in democratic public life. My argument draws on the concept of focal practices and insights from philosophy, theology, and social theory as I consider religious practices, religious conversion, and the nature of human passions as they relate to democratic life.
I thank the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute and its staff and associated faculty for asking good questions about religious conviction and humility; Ruth Braunstein, Julian Go, and anonymous reviewers for fine critical feedback; and all the smart colleagues who participated in the exploratory conference or otherwise helped sharpen the ideas raises here. Above all, I thank those who have mentored me into the focal practices – both secular and spiritual – that sustain me; and those everyday witnesses to political holiness in the United States, Mexico, and Central America that have challenged me and do so still.
Wood, R.L. (2019), "Passion and Virtue in Public Life: Focal Practices and the Political Holiness the World Needs
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