Ars Disputandi has recently published a collection of essays from the 2010 Conference of the European Society for Philosophy of Religion titled Religion in the Public Sphere. Edited by Niek Brunsveld and Roger Trigg, the volume—available online and in print—includes contributions from Nicholas Wolterstorff and Richard Amesbury. In the introduction, Trigg writes:
As we have seen, there have been many in the history of philosophy, and today, whose idea of ‘public reason’, of reason which can be accepted on the public stage, is so restricted that it rules out from the start any appeal to the transcendent, or even the non-physical. For them all religious faith has to be personal and private, with, at best, a subjective validity. The nature of reality, and of truth, coupled with the concomitant issue of reason, are quintessentially philosophical questions. In the background lie issues of the rational foundation of the principles of democracy, freedom and equality, and the very foundation of human rights. In Europe, as the German philosopher and social theorist, Jurgen Habermas, has argued, these owe much to Christianity. A major problem for the twenty-first century is whether these beliefs can be given any firm basis if the heritage which produced them withers away. This is bound up with deep questions of the identity of Europe, and of the individual countries which comprise the continent.
These are live political issues across Europe. Those who, in the name of secularism, see religion as only a matter of private, idiosyncratic belief, are establishing the presumption that states must be neutral to all religion (even neutral against it) and to the ethical principles which sprang from it. This, though, cuts deeper than mere political arguments, and the proponents of such views are making philosophical assumptions about the role of religion. Further, the philosophical basis of societies, the principles which underpin them, and even of democracy itself, is at stake. Philosophy has to be involved in questions about the nature of reason. Above all, the issues of the nature of faith, and its rational underpinning, has been a central concern of the philosophy of religion through the centuries. It is not surprising that philosophers of religion see the need to look at contemporary society, and themselves enter the varies discussions about the place of religion in the public sphere. They have much to contribute.