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5.0 out of 5 stars [Political] Secularism = Disestablishmentarianism, August 11, 2012
This review is from: How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom (Hardcover)
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First, the most important thing to know about this book is that it is not about how to be irreligious, agnostic, atheist, humanist, or any other point on the non-belief to belief spectrum. It is simply a book on secularism, and the purpose is to explore how we can have or maintain a secular government in the face of trends toward theocracy in the last three decades. As a nonbeliever, myself, I am interested in the possibilities, and do not think it is productive to exclude others who think differently, when freedom to think differently is at stake.

Berlinerblau does a wonderful job of accomplishing this purpose, and he explores the origins of secular thought from Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation through John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. The point of this is to show that secular thought had religious origins, and the point was to allow people to approach their religion (or not) according to their own conscience, and not at the direction of the state or church power, as well as to protect the state and individual from the church. Secularism only addresses the relation between state and religion, but it does not imply that all religion is removed entirely from the state's sphere, any more than the state can be removed from religion's sphere.

In short, he laments that virtually all organizations calling themselves secular are identifying themselves with non-belief, exclusively. Since nonbelievers are a very small percentage of the population, and the most unpopular group in the U.S., it is virtually impossible to have any influence these days over keeping our government secular. Because of this, it is important for secular groups to not forget the portions of the population that have always had much interest in keeping the relationship between government and religion impartial -- religious and quasi-religious citizens from varying traditions that do not want the government telling them what or how to believe. This would consist of an easy majority, since the Revivalist Christian Right probably is no more than about a fourth of the U.S. population. Wouldn't the other three-fourths prefer to not be under a fundamentalist Christian theocracy, with all that could entail?

This is a political book of an academic slant, and as such, Berlinerblau's recommendations make good political sense. He stresses the difference between political secularism vs theological secularism, the former being the object for which he's aiming, which would be desirable for all parties involved, since it would allow for maximum freedom to think and act as one wishes, as long as it does not infringe on the rights of others, or bring disorder on the state.

A couple of other interesting points he covers are regarding how these things are handled elsewhere, such as in France, where the government is somewhat hostile and controlling of religion, compared with some other European countries that have established religions, yet allow freedom for other religions (and they're not such bad places to live for nonbelievers). The Soviet Union was extremely hostile and controlling of religion, and when that experiment failed, religion came back with a vengeance. Religion won't be going anywhere anytime soon, regardless of what the New Atheists say.
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