This is an innovative study on the social phenomena known as Secularism, and its impact on American culture. Initially tracing the historical events contributing to the rise of Secularism in America, Baker deems it a failed social policy and believes only an institutional separation--not an absolute separation--between church and state can preserve the ideals embedded in the U.S. Constitution and secure a sound and fair public policy.
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This review is fromThe End of Secularism.
Date:December 12, 2009
This, Baker's first book, is the culmination of ten years of law school, public policy advocacy, and doctoral work. It also constitutes a part of Richard John Neuhaus' legacy, as it answers his call to resist the stripping of religious values from public discourse.After an ambitious but awkward attempt to sum up eighteen centuries of Western religious/political history, Baker finds his stride as he argues that nothing in American history or jurisprudence requires secularism of us. Then Baker goes to the merits, asking, for example: has secularism worked as prophecy? Has recent history actually shown modernization to be tightly coupled to the privatization of religion? Even if secularism doesn't hold sway, perhaps it should, for the sake of a healthy plurality. If people don't keep their religious views in check, what's to keep discussions from breaking down? On the contrary, citizens must draw on their underlying moral frameworks, if morally significant dialogue (e.g., democratic deliberations) is to take place. The reason persons bring their comprehensive views to bear upon the political process, Baker writes, is that they have integrity. How could the bracketing of citizens' religious commitments for the purpose of especially consequential deliberations not violate that integrity?Lastly, Baker attacks the pretensions of secularism to neutrality and rationality. However, the more worthy secularists are frankly partisan and epistemically modest. Ultimately, it is impossible to refute them without making a positive argument on behalf of the Christian viewpoint. Baker is content to tear down the idol of secularism, which is labor enough.For all its weighty ambitions, however, The End of Secularism is light on its feet. For those who feel ill-at-ease with the secularist streams in American culture but aren't sure if their objections are well-founded, Baker lets them eavesdrop on pertinent scholarly debates.