Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
Why Politics Needs Religion: The Place of Religious Arguments in the Public Square Paperback – August 14, 2006
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
"Brendan Sweetman has done us a service for continuing the rich conversation about the relationship between religion and politics." (Herbert Miller, SCJ,, Spring 2010)
"A first-rate book--original in thought, vigorous in prose, and bulging with bibliographic reference." (Raymond Dennehy, The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Winter 2009)
"This book serves as a brief to let the religious contend for public policies on religious grounds on a truly equal footing. Let the contest begin." (Journal of Church & State, September 2007)
"Sweetman shows why religion is important to any debate, but it, or any other idealism, should not overshadow the moral issues. Our beliefs have a definite impact on our morals and how we feel they should be handled. Sweetman argues that we don't need to prove our beliefs, but rather keep them rational and realize other groups also have rational beliefs. And for us to really have a democracy, and have a fair worldview of who and what we are, we need to include religion in politics." (Libraries Alive! June 2007)
"Sweetman's work is not merely a defense of religion's place in the public arena, but a promotion of the religious worldview as more reasonable than the prevailing secularism. His arguments are cogent, accessible, and thought-provoking. Highly recommended [to] lower-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers [and] general readers." (R. Watts, CHOICE, June 2007)
"Sweetman addresses major matters which are highly relevant to contemporary political debates. His book should stimulate hard thinking, not least by those who claim a historic position regarding the relationship of religion and politics." (David McKay, Covenanter Witness, April 2007)
"Why Politics Needs Religion is a wonderfully practical and plain-spoken defense not only of the use of religious reasoning in public dialogue, but also of the legitimacy of seeing secular reasoning as no less 'religious.' It will serve as a welcome aid to those religious people who feel marginalized--even besieged--by the secularist boundaries built around much public debate in our day." (William R. Stevenson Jr., Professor of Political Science, Calvin College)
"This is a unique book on a desperately important topic for our times. Every person's life is governed by a worldview, for good or ill, but very few people realize how this works or understand the vast influence their worldview exercises on how they see and think about events and people. Hence, they remain more or less at the mercy of their overall orientation in life--and those of others. This clear, thorough and forceful treatment of the indispensable contribution that religion and religion alone can make to public life helps us get past many of the confusions that now mar our legislatures, courts and other public arenas. Most of all, educators need to study it carefully and use it with their students." (Dallas Willard, Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern California, author of The Divine Conspiracy and Hearing God)
"It is commonly said today that public discourse is dangerously polarized. This important book shows how the polarization is not just over conflicting political and moral views. It is over how we define what counts as genuinely public discourse. The interaction of religion and politics is as inescapable as are disagreements about that interaction inevitable. This book brings to the discussion a rare mastery of diverse arguments combined with a generosity of spirit and penetrating insight that can help us engage our differences within the bond of civility." (The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, Editor-in-Chief, First Things)
From the Publisher
* Addresses a central and ongoing issue in the culture-wars debates
* Clear, readable and persuasive argument for the proper place of religious beliefs in the public arena
* Incisive analysis of secularism, its assumed beliefs and its limited prospects for contributing to a civil society
* Provides guidance and correctives for proper involvement of Christians in civil debate that will benefit all in a democratic society
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
There are at least three ways in which religion can influence and interact with politics. One is the sacred public square model, in which religion takes over the public arena. This theocratic model is best exemplified in the Islamic view of religion and politics, in which there is no sacred/secular distinction.
Another is the naked public square model, in which religion is decidedly and deliberately absent from the public arena, being a privatised faith relegated to the purely personal sphere. This is what the secularists and atheists are gunning for.
Finally there is the civic public square model, in which competing religious belief systems are allowed to slug it out, intellectually and ideologically, in the public arena. In this model various religious arguments are made, and may the best man - or religion - win. That is the model argued for in this book.
Sweetman, an American philosophy professor, claims that all religions have a right to enter the social and political debates of the day. Modern pluralism is not threatened or harmed by allowing religious argumentation about current social debates. In fact, it is strengthened by it.
He insists that all worldviews have a genuine place in the democratic process, and that non-religious positions promote their own worldviews, just as the various religions do. Indeed, he demonstrates that even secular humanism is a worldview and a religion.
A worldview, says Sweetman, is a philosophy of life, dealing with such issues are the nature of reality, what it means to be human, and how we think about right and wrong. It also contains certain life-regulating beliefs. Clearly the major world religions deal with such considerations, but so too does secularism and humanism.
And all worldviews have a faith component. That is, not all of their claims and beliefs can be fully and absolutely proven or established, so there is a belief commitment. Every worldview, even the secular worldview, has this faith component.
Philosophical naturalists, for example, have a commitment to the belief that all that matters is matter. It is not something that can be proven with absolute certainty, but is instead a philosophical presupposition.
There is nothing wrong with having such faith commitments, Sweetman suggests. We all hold to some beliefs without absolute surety, but we have substantial and reasonable grounds for holding to such beliefs. Thus religious folk can have strong, probable and rational grounds for holding to various beliefs, just as secularists do.
In this volume Sweetman spends a fair amount of time demonstrating just how secularism is in fact a worldview, even a religion. He shows how these secularists are not just against certain things (religion, God, the supernatural, etc.) but in fact have many things they are positively promoting and advocating, such as their philosophical naturalism, their materialistic reductionism, and so on.
Moreover, many secularists want in fact to establish a "seculocracy". They want to see established by law their views on a whole range of issues, be it evolution, moral relativism or a fully naked public arena. These goals can be clearly seen in the various Humanist Manifestos that have been produced (1933, 1973 and 2000).
Sweetman next argues that if secularism is as much of a worldview and a religion as is Christianity, then both should be treated the same: both should have equal access to the public square, and both should be allowed to set forth their case, and let the people decide which is the preferred option, at least on various public policy issues.
But secularists do not even want the debate to take place. They act as if they alone should have exclusive access to the public arena, and that all religions must be privatised affairs, with no influence whatsoever in the social and political spheres.
But Sweetman says that all worldviews should have this access to the public sphere. He teases this idea out by looking at several contentious debates, such as the abortion issue, and shows how in a pluralistic and democratic society, those with religious convictions can just as properly, and reasonably, put forth their case as the secularists.
Indeed, as the author argues, politics needs religion. If the state is to treat its citizens fairly and equally, then it must create a level playing field in which all religions and worldviews are allowed to flourish and promote their vision of the public good.
It is possible that secularism might prevail. Or some religion, like Christianity. But that is what a democracy is all about, letting the people decide what set of core beliefs and values they wish to model their nation on. A fair and democratic political system will allow vigorous debate on the issues that concern its citizens, and not allow one group (increasingly in the West, the secularists) to have an unfair monopoly over the public arena.
This book deserves wide reading, if we are to forestall the secularists from cutting of the much needed debate on the important issues of the day.
This book will leave you insanely frustrated.
"that secularist views often fail the test of reason and that religious views are more rational than secularist views."
I began to have serious doubts on page 123, where he states:
"all positions that are made the basis of law--whether secularist or religious--restrict human conduct. This is true even if an activity is made legal (and not just illegal). If abortion is legalized it also restricts the conduct of religious believers in the sense that although they want to live in a world where abortion is illegal, they are forced to live in a society where it is legal."
So, if a Muslim wants to live in a world where everyone else is a Muslim, and every Catholic wants to live in a world where everybody is Catholic, do we start the Crusades again? Most of us who study history call those the Dark Ages. Wanting to change everyone else so you can live in your own personal paradise cannot be the basis of any law. Civilization can only exist by each person tolerating the beliefs of others. It seems to me that if you believe abortion is your choice, you should be free to get one; and if you do not believe in abortion, you should be free to have the baby. No one should be free to shoot doctors or bomb clinics, even if that does restrict human conduct.
I bought this book hoping to see inspiring narratives of religious conviction in the battle against slavery, or Dr. King's wonderful religious imagery in defense of civil rights and racial justice. I found instead a narrow, bigoted justification for some Christians to impose their beliefs on others, using the power of the government. I don't believe that very many Christians would actually buy most of his conclusions.