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The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life Hardcover – March 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
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"Dacey seeks nothing less than to interrupt a suicide, and he has written a beautiful primer on how our secular tradition can be rescued from self-defeat. The Secular Conscience reveals how simplistic notions of privacy, tolerance, and freedom keep dangerous ideas sheltered from public debate. This is an extraordinarily useful and lucid book." -- Sam Harris, author of New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation
"On almost all the hot-button issues-abortion, embryo-destructive research, same-sex marriage, Darwinism as a comprehensive philosophy, etc.-Dacey is, in my judgment, on the wrong side. But he is right about one very big thing. These contests are not between people who, on the one side, are trying to impose their morality on others, and people who, on the other side, subscribe to a purely procedural and amoral rationality. . . The Secular Conscience was written in order to advance the fortunes of liberal secularism in the public square. On many questions of great public moment, most of us will disagree with Austin Dacey. At the same time, he should be recognized as an ally in his contention that these are moral questions that must be addressed by moral argument." -- Richard John Neuhaus, First Things
"Whenever I watch a riot over cartoons or meet another Muslim dissident forced to write under a pseudonym, I wonder, where are the Western secular liberals? Why do they shrink from defending freedom of conscience for all? Thanks to Austin Dacey, I now have an answer. As his piercing analysis shows, liberals have lost their grip on the real meaning of freedom. Only with a restored commitment to conscience as an objective moral ideal can they face down fundamentalists while constructively engaging with reformers of the faith. The Secular Conscience should be read by every friend of the open society." -- Ibn Warraq, author of Defending the West
Top Customer Reviews
In this brilliant and original book, Dacey advocates a public, objective and secular ethics. He argues that matters of conscience are fit subjects for public discussion guided by shared evaluative standards, evidence and experience.
Conscience must be free from coercion, but not free from judgement. Conscience is protected so that we can pursue the vital questions of meaning, truth and value in public dialogue and forums.
But the Roman Catholic Church has decreed, "Freedom of thought or expression ... cannot imply a right to offend the religious sentiments of believers." But this would end freedom of expression, because any criticism of religious doctrines could `offend the religious sentiments of believers'.
The assertion, `I'm right, you're wrong' is not intolerant; it is the nature of thought, as is then moving forward to saying, `and these are the reasons why you should change your mind'. This is not imposing one's opinion on others: persuasion is the opposite of coercion.
To defend one's point of view by saying, "I'm entitled to my opinion" is to refuse debate. The only opinions worth respect are those derived from investigation and debate.
The basis of ethics is independence of mind, with which we can evaluate all ideas and ideologies in the light of reason. Dacey argues that "the secular conscience stands prior to and independent of all religions.Read more ›
I believe this to be one of the most important books that liberals--and anyone who cares about human rights--could possibly read. If you've wondered how to combat the ultimately pernicious ideas of cultural relativism that can be used to justify virtually any atrocity, this is the book.
Mr. Dacey recounts the historical process by which the West broke with the Church and separated religion from government. Today, faith has come to be marketed to believers as their own private property and seeks to avoid accountability in political debate even as it exerts considerable influence over policy. Mr. Dacey submits that secularists must drop their predisposition to moral relativism and demand that Christians justify their positions on issues such as stem cell research and evolution based on reasonable standards of evidence and scientific inquiry.
On the other hand, Mr. Dacey explains that Islam has not undergone a process of separation from the state; the Islamic state is more accurately defined as a political form of religion. Mr. Dacey brings attention to courageous individuals who are challenging the blasphemy laws that preclude the free expression of the individual in Islamic society. The author castigates the Western media, feminists and others for their tolerance of intolerance and failing to recognize the threat that Islamic totalitarianism poses to our values; he goes on to implore us to support the youth in Iran and other Islamic states who yearn for a free, secular future.
Throughout the book, Mr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
In the war against multiculturalism and what Pope Benedict XVI called "the dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest... Read morePublished on October 17, 2009 by H. Curtler
Austin Dacey makes an excellent case for open discussions of beliefs. Belief, and religion specifically, evolve by open discussion and critical review and comment. Read morePublished on July 20, 2009 by Marvin Daigle
In a time when ideas of public morality seem to be polarizing ever more to the extreme, Austin Dacey makes a poetic argument for inclusion and cooperation. Read morePublished on May 13, 2009 by Kindle Customer
As the more enlightened parts of humanity peer out at history, it sees the human and environmental legacy that our progenitors, the "Greatest Generation," have left us. Read morePublished on February 28, 2009 by Shaw
Many secularists think that belief is a private matter. Whatever anyone believes is his own concern. Read morePublished on February 6, 2009 by Niklas Anderberg
I am not a philosopher by training, and so, from a philosophical standpoint, most of Austin Dacey's excellent prose is as familiar to me as reading Homer in the original ancient... Read morePublished on January 30, 2009 by John Kwok
I have to admit I didn't read the book, only skimmed it. I borrowed it from the library. From the opening pages, however, it seems heavily biased against belief in God, Islam,... Read morePublished on December 28, 2008 by seeker
If you have a good brain, and like to use it, this book is for you. There is intellectual interest on every page. Read morePublished on May 23, 2008 by Rudolf H. Kellmann
THE SECULAR CONSCIENCE: WHY BELIEF BELONGS IN PUBLIC LIFE comes from a philosopher who calls for a rethinking of the nature of conscience and its role in public life. Read morePublished on May 8, 2008 by Midwest Book Review