Rethinking secularism: Life after past evil: an interview with Daniel Philpott posted by Nathan Schneider
Professor Daniel Philpott is a leading theorist of global politics and religion at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and in the Department of Political Science. He is the author of the forthcoming Just and Unjust Peace: An Ethic of Political Reconciliation, which proposes a comprehensive conceptual framework for peacebuilding in the wake of conflict. This interview was conducted in conjunction with the SSRC’s project on Religion and International Affairs.—ed.
Augustine was centrally concerned with whether killing a person could be compatible with the love of Christ; yet, over time, the core commitments of his ideas on just war have come to be expressed in secular terms. It’s very important that they did so, since the human rights community, the international law community, and the U.N. all have a very secular mindset.
On the one hand, I would like the liberal peace community to be more open to bringing religious rationales and religious voices into the conversation. But on the other, religious people should do their part by learning how to express their values in both religious and secular vocabularies. [...]
Military academies in the United States take just war theory very seriously. This is what they teach their soldiers: no, you can’t kill civilians; no, you can’t wage aggressive war. The standards are really tough, and people are expected to conduct themselves in that way. It’s also ensconced in international law. My dream is that the ethic of reconciliation will have a similar status, providing a cookbook for how to approach certain problems, even if, at times, it is going to wind up being compromised. [...]
And, while some argue that punishment is inimical to reconciliation, I think there is a legitimate role for it. I accept the central commitments of the liberal peace framework, but I think that a broader, more encompassing approach is needed for bringing about justice in the wake of war, genocide, and dictatorship.