Early Praise for Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life January 2, 2008

Early Praise for Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life

The Center for Inquiry‘s representative to the United Nations, Austin Dacey, has a book coming out in mid-March called Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life (Prometheus Books, 2008).


Don’t let the title fool you.

A number of prominent atheists have been raving about this book already:

The Secular Conscience reveals how simplistic notions of privacy, tolerance, and freedom keep dangerous ideas sheltered from public debate. This is an extraordinarily useful and lucid book.” — Sam Harris

“With wit and a philosopher’s insight, Dacey explains exactly why secular morality, grounded in an ethical approach that relies on reason rather than supernatural faith, is sorely needed in the public square.” — Susan Jacoby

“With intellectual vigor and moral confidence, Austin Dacey demonstrates the self-defeating fallacies of efforts to privatize individual conscience and belief. Secularists and non-theists should heed his call to join public debates about fundamental ethical values, instead of questioning the impulse to conduct them.” — Wendy Kaminer

Publishers Weekly, which has been accused by some of being biased against books written by atheists, now adds one more enthusiastic review to the pile (emphases mine):

In a dazzling display of erudition, this book presents a cogent argument for secular liberalism. Dacey, a philosopher who teaches at Polytechnic University and the State University of New York at Buffalo, claims that values and ethics—defining what is right and wrong, good and bad—are not the sole domain of theologians. To contribute to our understanding of enlightened secularism, he cites like-minded thinkers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Dewey, Adam Smith, John Rawls, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, Plato, John Locke and Baruch Spinoza, among others. Dacey’s presentation is especially timely in view of the emphasis by some current presidential candidates on their religious identity. Not since 1960 when John F. Kennedy, as a Roman Catholic, argued for church-state separation has the issue of secularism versus religion been so prominent in a national election. Dacey’s analysis helps to put this question into the larger perspective of liberty and conscience. Dacey advocates for democracy over authoritarianism, not hesitating to challenge theocratic Islam, for example, as a “new totalitarianism.” He calls on secular liberals to stand up for “reason and science, the separation of religion and state, freedom of belief, personal autonomy, equality, toleration, and self-criticism.” This is a thoughtful, well-reasoned argument for progressive secularism.

The book is currently scheduled for release on March 18th.

(P.S. That book cover. Really? Couldn’t come up with anything better? It falls in line with the other disappointing atheist-book covers…)

[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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  • Thanks Hemant, I’ll check that out. It might be a good book for a skepchick reading selection sometime this year.

  • Sounds like a good one. Yet another to add to my quickly escalating pile.

    And stop complaining about the covers! You know why I like books with boring covers? Because it drives down the cost of the book. All those images add to the cost of production. PICTURES ARE THE GREAT SATAN.

  • Daniel

    What’s wrong with the cover? I didn’t think that was how we were supposed to judge books.

  • Sarah H.

    Daniel: lol

    Seriously, I want that book.

  • Sounds great. Can’t wait to read it.

    And personally, I generally stay away from books with the author’s picture on the cover. I think the simple and plain approach is much classier. Sometimes, less is more. But that’s just me.

  • Bad

    I met Dacey once or twice bit when I was in New York and he was, if I remember correctly, working for the new CFI chapter there. Seemed like a real rising star sort of guy at the time, and I’m eager to read his new book and see him gaining real success in his career.

  • The Rabbit Ambulance

    Personally, I think the cover is just fine. I’ll take clean and simple over most other design choices any day.
    Looking in from the outside, I don’t really see the “issue of secularism versus religion” in the US election; pretty much every candidate is going out of their way to show the huge hard-on they have for god. If I’m not mistaken, the only one who’s even marginally coherent on the issue is Kuchinich (or however the hell you spell him), and he might as well be running for the United Gay Freemasons’ Party for all his chances of winning.

  • going out of their way to show the huge hard-on they have for god.

    I gotta tell ya, I’ve never heard it described that way before… It made me laugh.

    I’ve used the sexual metaphor, but it was always the other way around. (We are the bride, and he’s the groom) 😉

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