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How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedomby Jacques Berlinerblau
Synopses & Reviews
“Berlinerblau mounts a careful, judicious, and compelling argument that America needs more secularists—not only among nonbelievers but among believers as well. It will change the way we think and talk about religious freedom.”
—Randall Balmer, author of Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts Faith and Threatens America
Weary of religious conservatives urging “defense of marriage” and atheist polemicists decrying the crimes of religion? Sick of pundits who want only to recast American life in their own image? Americans are stuck in an all-or-nothing landscape for religion in public life. What are reasonable citizens to do?
Seen as godless by the religious and weak by the atheists, secularism mostly has been misunderstood. In How to Be Secular, Berlinerblau argues for a return to Americas hard-won secular tradition; the best way to protect religious diversity and freedom lies in keeping an eye on the encroachment of each into the other.
Berlinerblau passionately defends the virtues of secularism, reminds us what it is and what it can protect, and urges us to mobilize around its cause, which is for all Americans to continue to enjoy freedom for—and from—religion. This is an urgent wake-up call for progressives in and out of all faiths.
"Berlinerblau, director of Georgetown's Program for Jewish Civilization, comes avidly to the defense of secularism, which he defines as a philosophy that attempts to 'balance the individual citizen's need for freedom of, or freedom from, religion' with 'a state's need to maintain order.' In his view, secularism, despite its status as a fundamental tenet of American thought, is losing in the current war of political ideas. At stake is not the need to keep government completely separate from religion, a goal Berlinerblau believes is unachievable, but rather the ability to reduce the influence religion (by which he means Christian revivalism) exerts on government policies. To achieve this goal in a landscape in which some politicians believe they are in office to serve Christ, not their constituents, Berlinerblau places his hopes on political coalitions among religious moderates and offers a 12-point plan, highlights including a campaign to clarify the goals of secularism, abandoning the insistence on radical separatism of church and state, and letting religious extremists hang themselves with their own radical petard. Berlinerblau succeeds in making concrete the current threats to secularism and offers a reasoned blueprint for an organized secular movement to regain its political power. Agent: William Lippincott, Lippincott Massie McQuilkin. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Equally tired of faith tests for politicians and atheist polemics about the crimes of religion? In How to be Secular, Jacques Berlinerblau issues a rousing defense of America's secular roots as our nation's best way of protecting religious freedom for all.
Founding father Thomas Jefferson believed that “religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God,” but these days many people seem to have forgotten this ideal. Conservatives claim America is a “Christian nation” and urge that laws be structured around religious convictions. Hardcore atheists, meanwhile, seek to undermine and attack religion at all levels. Surely there must be a middle ground.
In How to Be Secular, Jacques Berlinerblau issues a call to the moderates—those who are tired of the belligerence on the fringes—that we return to America’s long tradition of secularism, which seeks to protect both freedom from and for religion. He looks at the roots of secularism and examines how it should be bolstered and strengthened so that Americans of all stripes can live together peacefully.
“Jacques Berlinerblau mounts a careful, judicious, and compelling argument that America needs more secularists . . . The author’s argument merits a wide hearing and will change the way we think and talk about religious freedom.” —Randall Balmer, author of Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts Faith and Threatens America
About the Author
JACQUES BERLINERBLAU, professor at Georgetown University and director of the Program for Jewish Civilization, is the author of four books. He has appeared on radio, television, and print, including NPR, CNN, Al-Jazeera, The Economist, The Jerusalem Post, U.S. News and World Report and the Washington Post. He is the host of the webcast "Faith Complex," which appears on The Huffington Post and elsewhere.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Is Secularism Dead? xv
What Secularism Is and Isnt
What Is Secularism? (The Basic Package) 3
Were the Founders Secular? 20
Does Secularism Equal Total Separation of Church and State? 35
Does Secularism Equal Atheism? 53
How Not to Be Secular 69
The Very Peculiar “Rise” and Fall of American Secularism
The Rise of American Secularism and the “Secularish” 85
The Fall of American Secularism 103
Are Democrats Secularists? 120
The Christian Nation and the GOP 137
Reviving American Secularism
Who Could Be a Secularist? 155
How to Be Secularish (In Praise of “Secular Jews” and “Cafeteria Catholics”) 171
Tough Love for American Secularism 190
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