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1 Hallowed Secularism

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3 Hallowed Secularism Theory, Belief, Practice Bruce Ledewitz

4 hallowed secularism Copyright Bruce Ledewitz, Softcover reprint of the hardcover 1st edition All rights reserved. First published in 2009 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN in the United States a division of St. Martin s Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY Where this book is distributed in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world, this is by Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited, registered in England, company number , of Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS. Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint of the above companies and has companies and representatives throughout the world. Palgrave and Macmillan are registered trademarks in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries. ISBN ISBN (ebook) DOI / Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available from the Library of Congress. A catalogue record of the book is available from the British Library. Design by Scribe Inc. First edition: March

5 To Anna, Jonas, Ben, Joanne, Ryan, Douglas and Julia, their children and their children s children, with all my love. You will see a secular world. This gradual crumbling to pieces... is interrupted by the sunrise, which, in a flash and at a single stroke, brings to view the form and structure of the new world. Hegel, Phenomenology of Mind

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7 Contents Preface Acknowledgments ix xi Introduction 1 Part I Why Hallowed Secularism Is Necessary and How It Is Possible 1 Secularists Indifference and Hostility Toward Religion 11 2 The Roots of Secularism 21 3 The Failure of Secularism 35 4 Sources of Depth in Hallowed Secularism 53 Part II The Beliefs and Practices of Hallowed Secularism 5 The Framework of Hallowed Secularism 71 6 The Public Life of Hallowed Secularism 87 7 The Local Life of Hallowed Secularism The International Life of Hallowed Secularism 121 Part III The Meaning of Hallowed Secularism 9 Beyond Religion Beyond Humanism Beyond Materialism The Possibility of Hope 187 Conclusion 203 Bibliography 205 Index 211

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9 Preface As I put the final touches on this manuscript before the production process begins, the debate in secularism of which this book is a part is finally breaking out. So, I believe the book is coming out at an opportune moment. For the past several years, secularism has grown in the United States. It has grown first, in a very slow, long-term trend, especially among the young, whose attachment to organized religion is not as strong as it is among their elders. But secularism has also grown in a seemingly sudden way, as a cascade of books from those I call the New Atheists has come into the market in the last five years. The reader is probably familiar with some of those writers: Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Victor Stenger, Mark Lilla, and others, culminating in the culture-changing impact of Christopher Hitchen s best seller, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, in All at once, it seemed, secularists were a national audience. This secular prominence did not immediately translate into political or policy influence. The 2008 presidential primary campaigns were perhaps the most religiously influenced in American history with the early success of Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney s speech on his Mormon faith, and the constant efforts of John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama to speak the language of faith during debates and in their campaigning. From the tone of the presidential races, you would not know that any secularists existed in America. But beneath this surface appearance, a change was beginning to manifest in secularism itself. Before, the only issue for secularists had been to establish secularism as an alternative to religion. Thus, the tone of the New Atheists was still religion bashing of the old style. There was not much concern in these works about secularism itself and what kind of life a secularist could lead. Now that secularism is established as a national force, as a genuinely mass movement for the first time, the question of the future of secularism has begun to come to the fore. It is no longer enough for the secularist to say, I am not religious. The question now is, what am I and how shall I live? That change is now apparent. Earlier this year, too late for me to take much note of it in this manuscript, Austin Dacey published The Secular

10 x Preface Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life. I was happy to see this book because, as a staff member of the Center for Inquiry, Dacey is practically a card-carrying member of the atheist movement. Thus, when he accuses secularism of a soul-destroying relativism, he cannot be accused of harboring secret hopes for religious conversion. Dacey is right about the problem and wrong about the solution. In any event, this book offers a very different way out of secularism s current morass than the path he is offering. We shall see which way secularism ultimately goes. For now, it is enough to note that even secularists hostile to religion are beginning to recognize that the objective values which religion used to offer to the culture are a necessary foundation for healthy human life. If we are not going to be religious in the future, we need to establish a new relationship to that religious tradition. Bruce Ledewitz June 2008

11 Acknowledgments My most immediate thanks go to Donald J. Guter, dean of the Duquesne University School of Law, who approved a sabbatical for me for fall 2007 to finish this book although I applied much too late to qualify for the program, and to Duquesne University Provost, Ralph Pearson, who went along with it. Their generosity in this instance is rather typical of the Duquesne University community, of which I have been a happy member since My colleagues at the law school have been extremely supportive of my ongoing work in religion and public life. They have shared not only their knowledge but also their contacts, and I thank them. I must single out two of my colleagues for special mention. Bruce Antkowiak has held my hand for every up and down of the publication process. Robert Taylor has simply been my teacher for the last twenty-five years. There is not a single major source in this work that Robert did not introduce me to. Naturally, Robert is not to blame for the use I have made of his teaching. The staff at the law school have gone out of their way to help me prepare this material, especially Kathy Koehler, without whom neither this book nor much of anything else in my academic life would get done. I also want to thank Frank Liu, the director of Duquesne s Center for Legal Information, and his colleagues for their continuing help in research at the law school, as well as the staff of Gumberg Library at Duquesne University. The editors at Palgrave Macmillan have been very encouraging, especially Brigitte Shull, who, despite my various mishaps, never seemed to doubt that this book would be published. I have been fortunate in having two very able research assistants during the last two years, Jesse Leisawitz and Glen Downey, who continued to help with manuscript preparation even after they graduated from the law school. I will always be indebted to friends at my former synagogue, Dor Hadash, where I first developed my thinking in Judaism and then later grew away from the tradition. A special thanks to Anita Dufalla, artist extraordinary, for the cover. Finally, I wish to thank my family. My children have commented extensively and candidly on this manuscript and on the blog that accompanies it. They and their generation are this book s intended audience,

12 xii Acknowledgments and they have tried to help me reach that audience. I cannot thank my wife, Patt, because that would be too much like trying to thank myself. Since this book is a product of our ongoing religious development, I cannot always tell where she stops and I begin.

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