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The New Religious Intolerance

The New Religious Intolerance

Overcoming the Politics of Fear in an Anxious Age

Martha C. Nussbaum

ISBN 9780674725911

Publication date: 10/14/2013

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What impulse prompted some newspapers to attribute the murder of 77 Norwegians to Islamic extremists, until it became evident that a right-wing Norwegian terrorist was the perpetrator? Why did Switzerland, a country of four minarets, vote to ban those structures? How did a proposed Muslim cultural center in lower Manhattan ignite a fevered political debate across the United States? In The New Religious Intolerance, Martha C. Nussbaum surveys such developments and identifies the fear behind these reactions. Drawing inspiration from philosophy, history, and literature, she suggests a route past this limiting response and toward a more equitable, imaginative, and free society.

Fear, Nussbaum writes, is "more narcissistic than other emotions." Legitimate anxieties become distorted and displaced, driving laws and policies biased against those different from us. Overcoming intolerance requires consistent application of universal principles of respect for conscience. Just as important, it requires greater understanding. Nussbaum challenges us to embrace freedom of religious observance for all, extending to others what we demand for ourselves. She encourages us to expand our capacity for empathetic imagination by cultivating our curiosity, seeking friendship across religious lines, and establishing a consistent ethic of decency and civility. With this greater understanding and respect, Nussbaum argues, we can rise above the politics of fear and toward a more open and inclusive future.

Praise

  • Martha Nussbaum eloquently speaks for, and continues, this tradition [of liberality] in her book The New Religious Intolerance. She pleads for the use of our ‘inner eyes,’ for that ‘curious and sympathetic imagination’ that is adept at ‘recognizing humanity in strange costumes.’ Like Trilling, she illustrates this liberal imagination with works of literature—in her case ranging from Lessing’s Nathan the Wise all the way to the children’s books of Marguerite de Angeli. We can’t all be novelists or poets, but some of their imaginative skills are essential if we are to combine the stern, singular legal and political requirements of equal freedom with the baggy, polyphonous reality of social and cultural diversity.

    —Timothy Garton Ash, New York Review of Books

Author

  • Martha C. Nussbaum is the author of The Fragility of Goodness, The Monarchy of Fear, and Citadels of Pride, among other works. She is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, where she is in the Law School and Philosophy Department. She has received three of the world’s most significant awards for humanities and social science: the Kyoto Prize, the Berggruen Prize, and the 2021 Holberg Prize.

Book Details

  • 304 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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