Taking Leave of Abraham: An Essay on Religion and Democracy

Taking Leave of Abraham: An Essay on Religion and Democracy

Taking Leave of Abraham: An Essay on Religion and Democracy

Taking Leave of Abraham: An Essay on Religion and Democracy

Excerpt

Following the terrorist attack of 9/11 a great many books on religion and democracy have been published. The present book, however, claims a degree of originality in that it deliberately combines two perspectives which are normally kept separate: that of political philosophy and that of philosophy of religion. But what do the complex relations of religion and democracy have to do with the biblical story of Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac, his son? In fact it is possible to establish a direct link, since the written ‘testament’ of one of the terrorists, Mohammad Atta, included a reference to Abraham/Ibrahim with the purpose of casting Atta’s parents in the idealized role of Abraham who willingly sacrificed his son (cf. Brun et al. 2007, 103).

The present essay, however, is not a book on sacrifice, although this vast and complex topic has sparked increased interdisciplinary interest in recent years. Actually, I could imagine someone with at taste for dispute objecting that what we are dealing with here is only a ‘near-sacrifice’, since in the end Isaac was spared and a ram killed in his place. To any objection along these lines the Biblical text itself is the answer: It makes no secret of the fact that Abraham intended to go through with the killing. Regarding sacrifice (or religion in general), I have no interest in subscribing to a particular definition among the plethora of those available. What is of more concern to me is the gradual secularization

1 As but one example, the European Society for Philosophy of Religion decided to make ‘sacrifice’ the general topic of their conference in Oslo, August 28-31, 2008.

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