Stephen Strehle is a leading scholar of church/state issues. In this volume, he focuses his rigorous historical analysis and philosophical acumen upon a topic of great interest today and source of cultural wars around the globe—the process of secularization. The book starts with a discussion of early capitalism and how it saw the real world functioning well-enough on its own principles of individual struggle and self-interest, without needing religious or moral principles to meddle in its affairs and eventually dispelling the need for any intelligent design or providential orchestration of life through the work of Darwin. The book then discusses the growth of the secular point of view: how historians dismissed the impact of religion in developing modern culture, how scientists conceived of the universe running on self-sufficient or mechanistic principles, and how people no longer looked to the providential hand of God to explain their suffering. The book ends with a discussion of how the Deist concept of human autonomy became a political policy in America through Jefferson’s concept of a wall of separation between church and state and how the US Supreme Court proceeded to dismiss the importance of religion in shaping or justifying the values of the nation and its laws. The book is accessible to most upper-level and graduate students in a wide-variety of disciplines, keeping technical and foreign words to a minimum and leaving scholarly details or debates to its extensive notes.
The problem with any strict doctrine of church/state separation is the failure to understand how religion tends to permeate all levels of society. Its influence is felt within a wide range of institutions, inspiring its rituals from birth to death, promoting certain types of behavior and actions, while condemning others as unacceptable.1 Its ideas are integrated within the forces of life and often served as a necessary and critical part of the past when evolving modern beliefs and practices, making it difficult to label current institutions as secular or sacred and creating a coherent division between the two realms. Often those who label certain aspects of life as secular are presenting little more than an argument from ignorance (argumentum ex ignorantia) by failing to acknowledge or find any connection with religion in certain areas of interest due to their inability or unwillingness to discern it. Any argument from ignorance fails to account for the possibility of future historical or philosophical insight into the nature of things and discovering what was missing. Religious apologists made this same mistake in the past when inserting God into the gaps of their scientific knowledge to explain the inexplicable in the universe, but the modern theological community showed the basic fallacy of this approach and now tends to abandon the argument from silence for the most part.2 This type of argument is no longer considered valid among modern religious thinkers, and its secular counterpart is no different and must be rejected...
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