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The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It Hardcover – 1 Feb 2008

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 214 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (1 Feb 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061353434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061353437
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.2 x 21.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 749,070 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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HardCover Pub Date: 2008 Pages: 224 in Publisher: the HarperOne In a world torn apart by religious extremism on the one side and a strident secularism on the other is no question is more requires swift action or remedy than how we live with our deepest differences-especially our religious and ideological differences. The Case for Civility is a proposal for restoring civility in America as a way to foster civility around the world. Influential Christian writer and speaker Os Guinness makes a passionate plea to put an end to the polarization of American politics and culture that-rather than creating a public space for real debate-threatens to reverse the very principles our founders set into motion and that have long preserved liberty. diversity. and unity in this country.Guinness takes on the contemporary threat of the excesses of the Religious Right and the secular Left. arg...

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Pollin on 29 Feb 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Os Guinness is perhaps the social critique par excellence of this generation. He has rightly noted the growing polarization and division that marks our political, theological and social debates. How we argue in a destructive manner belittling our opponents etc. Os argues that instead of this approach we should establish a public square were we can have robust debates yet be civil to each other. Not the civility were everyone says something non controversial but the civility that says I completely disagree with you yet I will defend your right to say it. Great book highly commended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
Compelling Vision for America Beyond the Culture Wars 1 Mar 2008
By Douglas Groothuis - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Os Guinness, The Case For Civility. HarperOne, 2008. As an Englishman born in China, and as an astute sociologist and social critic, Guinness offers a wise and compelling vision for civilizing the public square and moving beyond the machinations of endless culture wars.

While writing as a Christian, Guinness charts a course for "a civil public square" in which citizens of any religion or of none are allowed and encouraged to let their voices be known and to respect those of others. He argues against both "the sacred social square" (where pluralism is defrocked and one religion dominates at the expense of others) and "the naked public square" (in which religious citizens are not allowed to participate socially and politically on the basis of their deepest convictions).

Guinness grounds his reflections on a profound understanding of The First Amendment and its entailments. Contrary to many, he argues that civility is a higher virtue than mere tolerance. Moreover, civility requires knowledge and discipline; it is not the fruit of relativism, which despairs of objective moral knowledge and the pursuit of objective truth.

Readers of Guinness's previous and much larger work, The American Hour (1992), will find echoes in The Case for Civility, but the latter is far more than a digest of the former; it is, rather, a timely and clarion call to principled pluralism tied to the essence of the American experiment.
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
A Compelling Argument 27 Feb 2008
By Tim Challies - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"It would be a safe but sad bet that someone, somewhere in the world, is killing someone else at this very moment in the name of religion or ideology." Thus begins "The Case for Civility" by Os Guinness. Every day the media brings us stories of death and mayhem and often religion and ideology are to blame. The bookshelves at your local bookstore are groaning under the weight of books by atheists--Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins--who blame religion for many of the world's ills. But the record of nations that turned from religion have fared even worse. Guinness says, rightly I'm sure, that no question today is more urgent than this one: how do we live with our deepest differences--and especially our religious and ideological differences. This book is a proposal for restoring civility.

But it is deeper than that. It is a proposal for restoring civility first in America is a model for the rest of the world to follow. It is a call for the United States to take the lead in restoring civility. "The place at which we must begin to search for answers is the United States. Not because the problem is worse here than elsewhere--on the contrary--but because America has the best cultural resources, and therefore the greatest responsibility to point the way forward in answering the deepest questions." America is uniquely equipped to take the lead and Guinness urges her on.

Much of the answer to whether or not we'll learn to live with our deepest differences depends on rejecting two erroneous responses to the culture wars. First, we must say no to a "sacred public square"--a situation where one religion has a position of privilege or prominence that is denied to others. As he refutes the sacred public square, Guinness laments the state of the Religious Right and the damage it has done to faith in America. We must also say no to a "naked public square"--the situation where public life is left devoid of any religion. This is what is advocated by the new atheists. Both of these responses to the culture war are in contradiction to the Constitution.

The alternative to both is a "civil public square." "The vision of a civil public square is one in which everyone--peoples of all faiths, whether religious or naturalistic--are equally free to enter and engage public life on the basis of their faiths, as a matter of `free exercise' and as dictated by their own reason and conscience; but always within the double framework, first of the Constitution, and second, of a freely and mutually agreed covenant, or common vision for the common good, of what each person understands to be just and free for everyone else, and therefore of the duties involved in living with the deep differences of others." If we are to have a civil society, we must first have a civil public square.

Anticipating an objection that is sure to arise, Guinness makes sure the readers knows that he is not advocating some kind of false tolerance, the likes of which is too often advocated in our society. The tolerance he advocates is true tolerance--one that understands and affirms that there must be differences. It does not seek to eradicate differences, but instead seeks respect despite differences. It is important to understand that "the right to believe anything" does not mean "anything anyone believes is right." Though we need to respect a person's right to believe anything, there are times that we have a right and a duty to disagree with them.

Guinness concludes the book with a short list of challenges--places to begin in the quest to restore civility. These are things society must do, but things that must be spearheaded by individuals just like you. As an afterword Guinness includes the text of the Williamsburg Charter which he helped draft.

A particularly interesting thing about this book is that it is written by a man who, by virtue of his British birth, is excluded from being a leading part of the solution. He can write and propose, but not act. What he proposes, he proposes to American citizens. Meanwhile, I read and reviewed this book from a Canadian perspective. And I agree with much of what Guinness states here. America, it seems to me, is the nation best equipped to champion and to model the restoration of civility. Though not revered as she once was, America continues to be a nation that is looked to with respect and which has a global presence. She is a nation who has the constitutional foundation to model a truly civil public square. But the question remains: will she show the way forward?
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Disagreement - why we need to be able to and remain civil 2 Jun 2008
By Jonathan Morrow - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Os Guinness has done us all a great service in writing The Case for Civility: And Why Our Future Depends on It. Always an articulate and sane voice, Guinness attempts to bring reason to the conversations / arguments that rage in America and beyond today. He notes, "Unquestionably, religion can be divisive, violent and evil. But also, unquestionably, secularism can be oppressive, murderous, and evil, too." He addresses issues like: What role does faith play in the public square? What role should it not play? Is secularism the answer? Moving beyond simplistic versions of the "new tolerance" where every view point is seen as "equally valid," Guinness helps us think about disagreements and how to disagree; yet in a way that affords dignity and respect--A truly important and timely work.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Wow! This makes good sense! 29 Dec 2008
By Sugar Pie - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Heard Os Guinness speak IRL and he gave a 30 minute synopsis of this book. Wow. He makes a great case for being civil to each other (political right and left, religious right and left, really any group) and why it matters to the future of the USA. Irish-born, Guinness has incredible insight on the Founding Fathers, Bill of Rights, and our Constitution.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Profound 15 Mar 2010
By B. Hooper - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you value freedom of speech read this book.

It beats up the religious right and the secular left. But he does it in such a beautiful way that you just have to read how he beats you up.

No matter what your views are there is a lot of wisdom in this book. Christian, read this book so you don't make such a dill of yourself; Atheist, do the same.
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