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Until the modern period the integration of church (or other religion) and state (or political life) had been taken for granted. The political order was always tied to an official religion in Christian Europe, pre-Christian Europe, and in the Arabic world. But from the eighteenth century onwards, some European states began to set up their political order on a different basi Until the modern period the integration of church (or other religion) and state (or political life) had been taken for granted. The political order was always tied to an official religion in Christian Europe, pre-Christian Europe, and in the Arabic world. But from the eighteenth century onwards, some European states began to set up their political order on a different basis. Not religion, but the rule of law through non-religious values embedded in constitutions became the foundation of some states -- a movement we now call secularism. In others, a de facto secularism emerged as political values and civil and criminal law altered their professed foundation from a shared religion to a non-religious basis. Today secularism is an increasingly hottopic in public, political, and religious debate across the globe. It is embodied in the conflict between secular republics -- from the US to India -- and the challenges they face from resurgent religious identity politics; in the challenges faced by religious states like those of the Arab world from insurgent secularists; and in states like China where calls for freedom of belief are challenging a state imposed non-religious worldview. In this short introduction Andrew Copson tells the story of secularism, taking in momentous episodes in world history, such as the great transition of Europe from religious orthodoxy to pluralism, the global struggle for human rights and democracy, and the origins of modernity. He also considers the role of secularism when engaging with some of the most contentious political and legal issues of our time: "blasphemy," "apostasy," religious persecution, religious discrimination, religious schools, and freedom of belief and thought in a divided world.


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Until the modern period the integration of church (or other religion) and state (or political life) had been taken for granted. The political order was always tied to an official religion in Christian Europe, pre-Christian Europe, and in the Arabic world. But from the eighteenth century onwards, some European states began to set up their political order on a different basi Until the modern period the integration of church (or other religion) and state (or political life) had been taken for granted. The political order was always tied to an official religion in Christian Europe, pre-Christian Europe, and in the Arabic world. But from the eighteenth century onwards, some European states began to set up their political order on a different basis. Not religion, but the rule of law through non-religious values embedded in constitutions became the foundation of some states -- a movement we now call secularism. In others, a de facto secularism emerged as political values and civil and criminal law altered their professed foundation from a shared religion to a non-religious basis. Today secularism is an increasingly hottopic in public, political, and religious debate across the globe. It is embodied in the conflict between secular republics -- from the US to India -- and the challenges they face from resurgent religious identity politics; in the challenges faced by religious states like those of the Arab world from insurgent secularists; and in states like China where calls for freedom of belief are challenging a state imposed non-religious worldview. In this short introduction Andrew Copson tells the story of secularism, taking in momentous episodes in world history, such as the great transition of Europe from religious orthodoxy to pluralism, the global struggle for human rights and democracy, and the origins of modernity. He also considers the role of secularism when engaging with some of the most contentious political and legal issues of our time: "blasphemy," "apostasy," religious persecution, religious discrimination, religious schools, and freedom of belief and thought in a divided world.

30 review for Secularism: Politics, Religion, and Freedom

  1. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Urban

    Secularism isn't about keeping religion down, it's about making a society where you can believe what you like without fear or disadvantage. It's a very interesting problem. This book - the first of its kind I think - explores this idea by looking particularly at France, USA, Turkey and India - all constitutionally secular, each coming at the problem from a different place. The chapter called The Argument Against Secularism is the most fascinating read as it gets into so many real-world examples, Secularism isn't about keeping religion down, it's about making a society where you can believe what you like without fear or disadvantage. It's a very interesting problem. This book - the first of its kind I think - explores this idea by looking particularly at France, USA, Turkey and India - all constitutionally secular, each coming at the problem from a different place. The chapter called The Argument Against Secularism is the most fascinating read as it gets into so many real-world examples, painting a picture of just how hard it is to give everyone an equality of religious freedom, or freedom to be atheistic. Other chapters can be quite dry, which was a surprise mostly because Andrew Copson is a very funny, personable individual and an entertaining public speaker. Maybe the text will loosen up just a little in a second edition.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This was a good primer on secularism and the history surrounding the topic. Short and brief but I think that was the point. I definitely learned things about a topic that interests me which was kinda my reason for reading this so đź‘Ť Also, it helped me think about the issue of secularism in a different way than I had previously and how it can be used to mask religious discrimination. I love when a book can show me different insights like that.

  3. 5 out of 5

    BHodges

    A concise book intended to demonstrate secularism as not being a single ideology but rather a collection of ideas that play out in different ways depending on context. Secularism and religion can coexist. In fact, religion as I tend to understand it depends on secularism as much as secularism can benefit from religion.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    Won from a Goodreads giveaway "If we do not attempt progress towards it, especially at a time of heightened global tensions and confrontations, the future may be as grim as the days of the wars of religion that first made secularism so necessary." - Andrew Copson, Secularism: Politics, Religion, and Freedom The very people who would benefit the most from reading this book, are the least likely to do so. Copson does a great job of explaining why secularism is so important for the religious and non- Won from a Goodreads giveaway "If we do not attempt progress towards it, especially at a time of heightened global tensions and confrontations, the future may be as grim as the days of the wars of religion that first made secularism so necessary." - Andrew Copson, Secularism: Politics, Religion, and Freedom The very people who would benefit the most from reading this book, are the least likely to do so. Copson does a great job of explaining why secularism is so important for the religious and non-religious alike, and how it can help to keep the peace in an increasingly diverse world. As an American(especially one in the Bible Belt), I find it unfortunate that in a society where so many have benefited from secularism, that so many don't understand why it is important, or in some cases, don't believe it beneficial to them. There are people who complain about sharia law, yet believe their country would be better off as a country based around Christian principles. They refuse to see that their very desires could have a negative effect on themselves, since how they view Christianity might be vastly more moderate than an individual who ends up in power making the laws. While that type of person may never pick up a book like this, it can certainly help better educate those of who are willing to do so, so that we might spread the knowledge.

  5. 5 out of 5

    William Nist

    Handy introduction to the nature, history and significance of Secularism. The case for and against secularism is discussed as well as the changing dynamics of secularism is current nation states. India and Turkey are two of the authors interesting examples. I am putting this title on my "Suggested Reading" page in our local Freethinkers group. Handy introduction to the nature, history and significance of Secularism. The case for and against secularism is discussed as well as the changing dynamics of secularism is current nation states. India and Turkey are two of the authors interesting examples. I am putting this title on my "Suggested Reading" page in our local Freethinkers group.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Luke Dabin

    Tore through this in one day! A surprisingly fluid read with good focus on non-European secularism (Turkey and India are case studies) as well as the historical origins and future challenges of this philosophy.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    This was a very concise but broad look at secularism and its historic and present implementation- authored by the president of the humanist society with a bias firmly from that viewpoint, albeit he does attempt to provide some discussion of opposing views. Interesting.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Literary Adventures

    It's an interesting introduction, however I felt like the briefness of the book was sometimes a disservice, because it prevented a more detailed/nuanced insight. Also, the writing can be sometimes dry, especially in the first half of the book (perhaps I got used to it after...) It's an interesting introduction, however I felt like the briefness of the book was sometimes a disservice, because it prevented a more detailed/nuanced insight. Also, the writing can be sometimes dry, especially in the first half of the book (perhaps I got used to it after...)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    A clear, concise, fair-minded and well-written introduction to a vast and complex subject. Copson deftly describes the history of secularism - including diverse traditions such as India as well as the more familiar (to Western readers) narrative of Rousseau, Locke, the French revolution and the founding fathers. He then gives a cogent summary of the tangled philosophical and political issues and arguments around secularism today, neatly establishing exactly why it remains the best hope for peace A clear, concise, fair-minded and well-written introduction to a vast and complex subject. Copson deftly describes the history of secularism - including diverse traditions such as India as well as the more familiar (to Western readers) narrative of Rousseau, Locke, the French revolution and the founding fathers. He then gives a cogent summary of the tangled philosophical and political issues and arguments around secularism today, neatly establishing exactly why it remains the best hope for peaceful co-existence. He finishes with a warning, titled 'Secularism under threat as never before'. An informative and - despite the sometimes dry subject matter - entertaining read, recommended for anyone with an interest in how politics and religion interact (which, given what a crucial issue this is, really ought to be everyone).

  10. 5 out of 5

    Leanne

    This was a fantastic book, giving a surprisingly brisk overview of the concept and history of secularism and the ongoing debate of it in practice. It’s shortness was perfect for an introduction, it kept it readable and clear of distractions. However, I wouldn’t say this is a the book for a completely newbie. If you already have some understanding of basic political structures and/or religious debates, then great. But if you don’t, this might move a bit too quickly, with not enough details to comp This was a fantastic book, giving a surprisingly brisk overview of the concept and history of secularism and the ongoing debate of it in practice. It’s shortness was perfect for an introduction, it kept it readable and clear of distractions. However, I wouldn’t say this is a the book for a completely newbie. If you already have some understanding of basic political structures and/or religious debates, then great. But if you don’t, this might move a bit too quickly, with not enough details to complete the story.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Zahida Zahoor

    A difficult read, with the first half of the book being very dry. It felt like reading a PhD or a Master thesis rather than a fact or guide book. The second half of the book made the book disjointed but was more accessible. The author does make a good job of highlighting the importance of creating a fair and equal circular society.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shania

    The review of different kinds of secularism in the first half of the book was interesting. The overall structure is clear. However, i feel the book lacks a strong argument and there is no clear conclusion.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Phizacklea-Cullen

    A concise and well-researched examination of a complex standpoint, assessing how it can be successfully and unsuccessfully administered by governments, fair-minded enough to have even Rowan Williams giving a positive review on the cover.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sumaia Akhand

    A very enjoyable and well-written book about secularism around the world.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gary McLelland

    A well written and thorough overview of secularism around the world.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dorian Black

    review to come

  17. 5 out of 5

    John Hubbard

    Solid overview of modern secularism that has a brevity tu which allows one’s mind to explore the situations he talks about.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Fraser Sutherland

    Great summary of secularism, how it has developed as a political settlement and the current challenges faced in the world today.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Shashank Sharma

    It is a fairly balanced book and it does give a good introduction to secularism. On pg 119 however he refers to people from other religions as advocates and protestors but calls Hindus Extremists? Extremists because they protested in the west against Amazon and ali-baba for selling merchandise depicting pornographic images of their deities, for the depiction of their deities on shoes and door mats? For the sake of appearing neutral and balanced he is calling American Hindus extremists for peacefu It is a fairly balanced book and it does give a good introduction to secularism. On pg 119 however he refers to people from other religions as advocates and protestors but calls Hindus Extremists? Extremists because they protested in the west against Amazon and ali-baba for selling merchandise depicting pornographic images of their deities, for the depiction of their deities on shoes and door mats? For the sake of appearing neutral and balanced he is calling American Hindus extremists for peacefully protesting? I may or may not agree with their outrage on how their gods are depicted but to call them Hindu extremists is absurd and illogical.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Harley Wykes

    A good introduction to secularism, that could have defined what religion actually is a little bit better so that we have something to contrast it with.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Hurst

    Good introduction, but not much more.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    This is a short but dense book which examines secularism throughout history, and raises the question of its future in the context of the modern world. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys reading about international politics.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jnoller54

  24. 4 out of 5

    T

  25. 5 out of 5

    Victor Chininin

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ian Smith

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jaylani Adam

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nick Anstead

  29. 5 out of 5

    Murray

  30. 5 out of 5

    Juju

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