Abstract: There are many salvific exclusivists and consequentialism is very influential in philosophical ethics. The combination of these two intellectual commitments is extremely dangerous. In virtue of her intellectual commitments, a consequentialist who is also a salvific exclusivist will consider that she has a moral obligation to ensure that everyone accepts her religion. If they will not do so voluntarily, then she will have a compelling reason to attempt to coerce others to accept her religion, and a compelling reason to coerce others to prevent proselytizing on behalf of other religions. If the state tries to prevent her from using coercive means to achieve these ends then she will have a compelling reason to attempt to overthrow the state. It may seem that there are few sorts of states that would be able to tolerate the presence of consequentialist salvific exclusivists other than religious states that happen to endorse her religion. However, it is possible for the liberal state to tolerate the presence of consequentialist salvific exclusivists. To do so the liberal state needs to ensure that the consequentialist salvific exclusivist will judge that she is more likely to be able to make converts by non-coercive means than she is by attempting to overthrow the state so as to enable the use of non-coercive means.
Dr Steve Clarke is a James Martin Research Fellow in the Program on the Ethics of the New Biosciences and is a named researcher on the AHRC funded project ‘Science and Religious Conflict’. He is on leave from the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics in Australia (until 2012) where he is a Senior Research Fellow. He holds a PhD in Philosophy from Monash University and has previously held appointments at the University of Melbourne, the University of Cape Town and La Trobe University. Steve is a broad-ranging philosopher who has published in such journals as The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Synthese, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, Philosophical Psychology and the Journal of Risk Research.