How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom

Jacques Berlinerblau, Author
Jacques Berlinerblau. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0547473345
Reviewed on: 06/11/2012
Release date: 09/11/2012
Paperback - 306 pages - 978-0-544-10516-4
Ebook - 224 pages - 978-0-547-51828-2
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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.)
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