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A Short History of Secularism by
Publication Date: 2007-12-15
What does it mean to call Western society 'secular'? What is 'secularism'? And how should we understand the concept of 'secularism' in international relations, particularly the clash between radical Islam and the West? The Latin term from which the word 'secular' is derived - 'saeculum' - means 'generation' or 'age', and came to mean that which belongs to this life, to the here and now, in this world. It is widely used as a shorthand for the ideology which shapes contemporary society without reference to the divine.However, according to Graeme Smith, 'secularism' represents a great deal more. He offers a radical reappraisal of the notion of secularism and its history, beginning with the Greeks and proceeding to modernity and the contemporary period. The assumption that the West is becoming increasingly secular is often unquestioned. By contrast, Dr Smith discerns a different kind of society: one informed by a historical legacy which makes sense only when it is appreciated that it is religious. Secularism was born of Christianity. Daringly - and very originally - Smith argues that it is impossible to understand the idea of the secular without appreciating that, at root, it is Christian. "A Short History of Secularism" will fundamentally reshape discussions of western culture, religion and politics. It will have strong appeal to students of religion, political philosophy, and the history of ideas.
Secularism and Freedom of Conscience by
Publication Date: 2011-10-24
Secularism: the definition of this word is as practical and urgent as income inequalities or the paths to sustainable development. In this wide-ranging analysis, Jocelyn Maclure and Charles Taylor provide a clearly reasoned, articulate account of the two main principles of secularism--equal respect, and freedom of conscience--and its two operative modes--separation of Church (or mosque or temple) and State, and State neutrality vis-à-vis religions. But more crucially, they make the powerful argument that in our ever more religiously diverse, politically interconnected world, secularism, properly understood, may offer the only path to religious and philosophical freedom. Secularism and Freedom of Conscience grew out of a very real problem--Quebec's need for guidelines to balance the equal respect due to all citizens with the right to religious freedom. But the authors go further, rethinking secularism in light of other critical issues of our time. The relationship between religious beliefs and deeply-held secular convictions, the scope of the free exercise of religion, and the place of religion in the public sphere are aspects of the larger challenge Maclure and Taylor address: how to manage moral and religious diversity in a free society. Secularism, they show, is essential to any liberal democracy in which citizens adhere to a plurality of conceptions of what gives meaning and direction to human life. The working model the authors construct in this nuanced account is capacious enough to accommodate difference and freedom of conscience, while holding out hope for a world in which diversity no longer divides us.
The Plot to Kill God by
Publication Date: 2008-08-06
Paul Froese explores the nature of religious faith in a provocative examination of the most massive atheism campaign in human history. That campaign occurred after the 1917 Russian Revolution, when Soviet plans for a new Marxist utopia included the total eradication of all religion. Even though the Soviet Union's attempt to secularize its society was quite successful at crushing the institutional and ritual manifestations of religion, its leaders were surprised at the persistence of religious belief. Froese's account reveals how atheism, when taken to its extreme, can become as dogmatic and oppressive as any religious faith and illuminates the struggle for individual expression in the face of social repression.
The Unintended Reformation by
Publication Date: 2012-01-01
In a work that is as much about the present as the past, Brad Gregory identifies the unintended consequences of the Protestant Reformation and traces the way it shaped the modern condition over the course of the following five centuries. A hyperpluralism of religious and secular beliefs, an absence of any substantive common good, the triumph of capitalism and its driver, consumerism--all these, Gregory argues, were long-term effects of a movement that marked the end of more than a millennium during which Christianity provided a framework for shared intellectual, social, and moral life in the West. Before the Protestant Reformation, Western Christianity was an institutionalized worldview laden with expectations of security for earthly societies and hopes of eternal salvation for individuals. The Reformation's protagonists sought to advance the realization of this vision, not disrupt it. But a complex web of rejections, retentions, and transformations of medieval Christianity gradually replaced the religious fabric that bound societies together in the West. Today, what we are left with are fragments: intellectual disagreements that splinter into ever finer fractals of specialized discourse; a notion that modern science--as the source of all truth--necessarily undermines religious belief; a pervasive resort to a therapeutic vision of religion; a set of smuggled moral values with which we try to fertilize a sterile liberalism; and the institutionalized assumption that only secular universities can pursue knowledge. The Unintended Reformation asks what propelled the West into this trajectory of pluralism and polarization, and finds answers deep in our medieval Christian past.