Thinking as a Hobby

Get Email Updates
Email Me

Admin Password

Remember Me

3477687 Curiosities served
Share on Facebook

A History of American Secularism
Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Read/Post Comments (6)

Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, by Susan Jacoby, looks like an interesting book, and here's a review in Slate.

I'll probably pick this book up and have a look, but there are a couple of reactions in the review that are worth commenting on.

Many readers across the political spectrum will applaud Jacoby's call for defending scientific literacy in the face of the Evangelicals' "intelligent design" theory, which rules out "evolution across species." But does reason as such need shoring up against the power of religion, and does the separation of church and state require keeping religion out of politics?

Well...yes. And yes.

If religion is engaging in open conflict with reason, as it (sadly) still is with the ongoing evolution debate in this country...then yes, reason needs "shoring up", as the reviewer puts it. The alternative is to fade away in retreat and let the ignorant have their way in interjecting supernatural explanations into science curriculum.

And to answer the second question, yes, religion should be kept out of politics, as much as humanly possible. This does not mean that politicians should renounce their religious beliefs. But it does mean that taxpayer money should not go to pay Congressional chaplains. It means that in the capacity as a servant and representative to the people of the United States, elected officials should present themselves as neutral and impartial to the subject of religion, when serving in their official capacity. Of course, the only way to enforce this is by actually voting for politicians that act this way, and most Americans actually like their representatives to be openly religious, so it won't happen for a long time...maybe ever.

Many liberals will contend that secularists such as Jacoby are wrong to ask religious Americans to keep their beliefs "private."

I would never ask religious Americans to keep their beliefs private. That is not plurality. But when a person is serving as a government representative, which is not supposed to favor a particular religious tradition or viewpoint, then they should not openly espouse their beliefs or proselytize for them. Is that too much to ask?

And then there's this:

Granted, Enlightenment reason contributed a crucial tool for citizens and policymakers. But reason alone could never mobilize people to look beyond the defense of their own interests.

What? Reason cannot drive people to want to help one another? The medieval period was marked by all sorts of cruel and ignorant nonsense, such as witch burning. Those who wanted to put a stop to such practices were only interested in the detached notion of rationality and truth? The reviewer seems to be denying that reason can, and should, be a large facet of morality, and that it is better to forge a moral system out of reason than from received supernaturality.

Read/Post Comments (6)

Previous Entry :: Next Entry

Back to Top

Powered by JournalScape © 2001-2010 All rights reserved.
All content rights reserved by the author.