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Freedom of Religion and the Secular State (Blackwell Public Philosophy Series) [Kindle Edition]

Russell Blackford
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Exploring the relationship between religion and the state

Focusing on the intersection of religion, law, and politics in contemporary liberal democracies, Blackford considers the concept of the secular state, revising and updating enlightenment views for the present day. Freedom of Religion and the Secular State offers a comprehensive analysis, with a global focus, of the subject of religious freedom from a legal as well as historical and philosophical viewpoint. It makes an original contribution to current debates about freedom of religion, and addresses a whole range of hot-button issues that involve the relationship between religion and the state, including the teaching of evolution in schools, what to do about the burqa, and so on.

Product Description


Rare are the books that effectively discuss and connect philosophical background and practical foreground. Russell Blackford s Freedom of Religion and the Secular State is one.  Blackford s always and admirably accessible overview covers not only a wide range of prominent controversies, but a number of equally crucial yet commonly overlooked issues such as religious proselytizing and the legitimacy of official church establishments.   (The
Review of Politics
, 1 November 2013)

Freedom of Religion & the Secular State could not be more timely. If it becomes a standard text in colleges and universities, and, more generally, became a handy reference to those intimately concerned with questions regarding the separation of religion and state, then possibly, despite continuing heat over the subject, a little cool reflection could mediate the divide.   (Atheists United, 2012)

"I found the book to be concise and deceptively simply written, but with great depth of analysis. Of course, as a non–religious person, perhaps it is hardly surprising that I enjoyed Blackford′s analysis so much: in a sense, he is already "preaching to the converted" for a reader like myself. However, I think it would probably provide much food for thought for the reasonable religious person too." (Skepticlawyer, 9 February 2012)

"But anyway, even with this, this book is a must–have. It needs to be kept to hand in any discussion of Western secularism." (Steve′s Posterous, 28 January 2012)

"This worthy contribution to the debate on religious freedom analyses the history and thinking that has underpinned western society today ... Whilst written by an academic, the style and language open up a complex and important debate to a mass audience and clearly underline the principles at stake for both state and church." (Life & Work, 1 February 2012)

"Freedom of Religion and the Secular State offers a comprehensive analysis, with a global focus, of the subject of religious freedom from a legal as well as historical and philosophical viewpoint." (The Richard Dawkins Foundation, 16 December 2011)


This is a must–read: Blackford has given us a forceful and persuasive book that will have a big impact on the debate it addresses.

AC Grayling, Professor of Philosophy and Master of the New College of the Humanities, London

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 750 KB
  • Print Length: 219 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 047065886X
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell; 1 edition (28 Nov. 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #803,152 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent read 3 April 2012
By Onora
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am commencing a philosophy course at Open University next October and decided on this book to familiarise myself further with the subject. Russell Blackford examines the relationship between the secular state and religion, particularly freedom of religion. This book puts forward many arguments about the influence religion has on state affairs. He deals with cases for example, when the Amish Community appealed for children belonging to their religion to be excused from attending school after fourteen years of age. This may be good for the Amish community, however, it would not be such a good idea for society in general, particularly for progressive science!

The issue of the teaching of evolution in schools is also covered as well as the rights of children when parents refuse the administration of medical treatment to their children on religious basis. Blackford advocates the right of people to be able to criticise the faults of religion without being referred to as 'Islamaphobic' or 'racist'. The Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed are also covered, along with much more. For readers who are particularly interested in Philosophy of Religion, this book is a must read!! It is important to acknowledge that Blackford addresses the question as to why religions look to the secular state to uphold their freedom. The author has a most credible academic background in philosophy of religion, philosophy of bioethics and metaethics,as well as political philosophy.He has provided a very balanced book of intelligence and I can't recommend it highly enough. Interestingly, Blackford raises an important question! Why does religion depend on the secular state to uphold its rights?
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fair-minded 1 Mar. 2013
This book outlines a modernised Lockean case for the state to adopt a position of neutrality towards religion, favouring no particular religious or non-religious worldview. The state should concern itself with the "things of this world" only. The model is then applied to issues such as freedom of speech, children's upbringing, the internal affairs of religious communities, and laws based on religious morality.

Blackford allows no special privileges to religious world-views, but I think that reasonable religious people can be reassured that this is not hostility to religion as such, just fair-minded neutrality.

The book is fairly short (201 pages), simply written, and there's quite a lot of reference to other books on the same topic, with agreement and criticism. So it would be a good starting point for study of this issue.

One fault with the book - I would have liked less issues and more in-depth explanation of those that remained.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight 30 Mar. 2012
By Tim K - Published on
Blackford's book was very enlightening and even challenged some of the views I hold. In it, Blackford shows that given we live in a liberal democracy, what that exactly means for religious freedom and expression. His model for this is based on that of John Locke, where the State's goal is to protect and serve the this-worldly interests of its population. What does this mean? It means that the State should be religion-blind and neutral on otherworldly, religious matters. As Blackford sums up in the last chapter, "On this approach, the state should not favor particular doctrines relating to the salvation of souls, or anything analogous. . ." (pg 198)

With this approach in mind, Blackford weaves his way through contemporary church-state issues. Though his discussions were informative and thought-provoking, there were certain areas where I wish he would have gone a little further in his conclusions. All things considered though, there was very little I actually disagreed with. His discussions on accommodating religion, the welfare of children, and what power the State has over religious communities were the highlight of the book, for me at least.

The one highlighting principle that I will use in further discussions of this topic is that religious institutions and individuals cannot claim persecution so long as a law is enacted for good secular reasons (the only ones that matter given the Lockean model) and is generally applicable to society as a whole. This has big consequences, all of which Blackford considers.

"Freedom of Religion and the Secular State" is extremely well-written and argued. If you have any interest in the role of religions in modern, secular societies, I highly recommend Blackford's contribution.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book 26 Feb. 2012
By Dr. S. J. Zara - Published on
This is an important book, rich in information and packed with well-discussed examples of the relationship between religion and the state. It could become the standard reference for a topic of great current importance. Whether or not you agree with Blackford's politics and his conclusions, the quality of the content makes this book a must-have for anyone interested in modern secularism and atheism.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book 1 Feb. 2013
By S. Pilgrim - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Mr. Blackford, adeptly and succinctly explores the issues in his book and delivers an excellent follow-up to his "50 Voices of Disbelief".
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