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A Short History of Secularism (I.B.Tauris Short Histories) Hardcover – 20 Oct 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: I.B.Tauris (20 Oct. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845115767
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845115760
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 2.4 x 14.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,465,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A& nbsp; lucid and& nbsp; strikingly original account of secularization. The& nbsp; book confounds both secularization theorists who announce the disappearance of Christianity and Christians who claim a religious identity untouched by historical change.& nbsp; By contrast, Dr Smith's& nbsp; own interpretation makes sense of the broad sweep of Western history and the shared moral convictions of modern liberal democracies. It offers& nbsp; a departure from the cautious revisions of Weber and Durkheim that have dominated the literature. This& nbsp; bold and provocative book deserves to be widely read; and, if widely read, it will certainly be widely discussed."--Robin W. Lovin, Southern Methodist University& nbsp;

"Offers fascinating insights into Western secularism. His engagement with key theorists and theories gives the reader a& nbsp; clear and accessible map of secularism as& nbsp; this has been understood in& nbsp; Western thinking.& nbsp; On his map he& nbsp; helpfully charts the& nbsp; chief patterns of religious engagement and disengagement within Western society. There are important chapters& nbsp; here on Christian identity, popular religion in the medieval period, Victorian Christianity and contemporary religious belief.& nbsp; Smith writes well and lucidly about current debates in sociology of religion& nbsp; regarding the secularization thesis. He also discusses& nbsp; topics that are& nbsp; of& nbsp; great interest to modern political theorists.& nbsp; A Short History of Secularism will be& nbsp; mandatory reading& nbsp; for both undergraduate andpostgraduate students& nbsp; in religion and politics& nbsp; who seek& nbsp; an understanding of the concept and theories of secularism in the& nbsp; West."--Angie Pears, Oxford Brookes University

"A lucid and strikingly original account of secularization. The book confounds both secularization theorists who announce the disappearance of Christianity and Christians who claim a religious identity untouched by historical change. By contrast, Dr Smith's own interpretation makes sense of the broad sweep of Western history and the shared moral convictions of modern liberal democracies. It offers a departure from the cautious revisions of Weber and Durkheim that have dominated the literature. This bold and provocative book deserves to be widely read; and, if widely read, it will certainly be widely discussed."--Robin W. Lovin, Southern Methodist University 
"Offers fascinating insights into Western secularism. His engagement with key theorists and theories gives the reader a clear and accessible map of secularism as this has been understood in Western thinking. On his map he helpfully charts the chief patterns o

""A lucid and strikingly original account of secularization. The book confounds both secularization theorists who announce the disappearance of Christianity and Christians who claim a religious identity untouched by historical change. By contrast, Dr Smith's own interpretation makes sense of the broad sweep of Western history and the shared moral convictions of modern liberal democracies. It offers a departure from the cautious revisions of Weber and Durkheim that have dominated the literature. This bold and provocative book deserves to be widely read; and, if widely read, it will certainly be widely discussed.""--Robin W. Lovin, Southern Methodist University
""Offers fascinating insights into Western secularism. His engagement with key theorists and theories gives the reader a clear and accessible map of secularism as this has been understood in Western thinking. On his map he helpfully charts the chief patterns of religious engagement and disengagement within Western society. There are important chapters here on Christian identity, popular religion in the medieval period, Victorian Christianity and contemporary religious belief. Smith writes well and lucidly about current debates in sociology of religion regarding the secularization thesis. He also discusses topics that are of great interest to modern political theorists. ""A Short History of Secularism"" will be mandatory reading for both undergraduate and postgraduate students in religion and politics who seek an understanding of the concept and theories of secularism in the West.""--Angie Pears, Oxford Brookes University 'It is widely recognized that organized religion has much less political power and imaginative weight in Britain today than it held a century or so ago and that in that sense we live in a much more secular society. Few of us have much idea how to reconcile that recognition with the fact that most Britons still stalwartly identify themselves as believing Christians, even if they seldom or never go to church. Graeme Smith's thoughtful book is a bold and intriguing attempt to explain why each is true and interpret how we have reached this outcome and what it means for the continuing presence of Christianity in the lives of even the robustly incredulous.' - ""John Dunn, Professor of Political Theory, University of Cambridge""

"A lucid and strikingly original account of secularization. The book confounds both secularization theorists who announce the disappearance of Christianity and Christians who claim a religious identity untouched by historical change. By contrast, Dr Smith's own interpretation makes sense of the broad sweep of Western history and the shared moral convictions of modern liberal democracies. It offers a departure from the cautious revisions of Weber and Durkheim that have dominated the literature. This bold and provocative book deserves to be widely read; and, if widely read, it will certainly be widely discussed."--Robin W. Lovin, Southern Methodist University
"Offers fascinating insights into Western secularism. His engagement with key theorists and theories gives the reader a clear and accessible map of secularism as this has been understood in Western thinking. On his map he helpfully charts the chief patterns of religious engagement and disengagement within Western society. There are important chapters here on Christian identity, popular religion in the medieval period, Victorian Christianity and contemporary religious belief. Smith writes well and lucidly about current debates in sociology of religion regarding the secularization thesis. He also discusses topics that are of great interest to modern political theorists. ""A Short History of Secularism"" will be mandatory reading for both undergraduate and postgraduate students in religion and politics who seek an understanding of the concept and theories of secularism in the West."--Angie Pears, Oxford Brookes University 'It is widely recognized that organized religion has much less political power and imaginative weight in Britain today than it held a century or so ago and that in that sense we live in a much more secular society. Few of us have much idea how to reconcile that recognition with the fact that most Britons still stalwartly identify themselves as believing Christians, even if they seldom or never go to church. Graeme Smith's thoughtful book is a bold and intriguing attempt to explain why each is true and interpret how we have reached this outcome and what it means for the continuing presence of Christianity in the lives of even the robustly incredulous.' - ""John Dunn, Professor of Political Theory, University of Cambridge""

About the Author

Graeme Smith is Dean of Non-Residential Training at St Michael's College, Llandaff and associate lecturer at the University of Cardiff. He is executive editor of the international journal Political Theology, and has published widely in the field of religion and politics.

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Format: Paperback
`Nostalgia', it is sometimes quipped, `is not what it used to be.' Certainly, any Christian nostalgia for long lost days when everyone went to Church will never be the same after reading this fascinating and engaging book. The title could lead readers to expect a variety of possibilities, so it is important to be clear about the nature of the book. The history of secularism which the book seeks to narrate is the statistically unequivocal decline in Church-going over the last century. Certainly there are many other approaches to such a topic, but the one taken here is one that is provocative, challenging and thought-provoking. The argument of the book emerges from an exploration of the tension between the statistics of church decline and those indicating high levels of abiding belief in God. But this book is not primarily about statistics - it is a whistle-stop tour through some fascinating areas of history from which we learn, amongst other things, that Christianity is always changing and adapting, that there are many parallels between patterns of people relating to Church in the middle ages and today, and that the Victorian age was unusual in its high levels of Church attendance. The particularly interesting proposal to which all this leads is that what we are witnessing in so-called secular society is in fact a reinvention of Christianity as what Smith calls `the ethics society'. If this sounds counter-intuitive, then that's all the more reason to read the book: you might not agree, but you will be made to think.

I suspect that quite a lot of Christians won't like the argument and that quite a lot of secularists won't like it either.
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Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There is so much in here and it's written in what seems to me an almost thriller-like pace (Dan Brown springs to mind!?) that I needed to let each part percolate and settle before carrying on. The writing style is clear and inviting and Dr Smith has a robust sense of humour. He also, obviously, has a masterful breadth of knowledge and critical abilities across politics, history, theology and sociology.

Reading it at this time of year, I particularly enjoyed the references to the celebrating of Christmas and what that might or might not say to future generations and historians about how 'religious' or 'secular' we all are in the early 2000s.

As someone who has a fluid Christian identity and journeyed through many manifestations of formal Christianity, I very much recognise myself as an adherent of the two mind views the books concludes with and leads towards.

Only a couple of disappointments for me, however, I would have preferred a snappier title (how about the title of the last chapter with the current book title as a subtitle) and a more 'current' or 'lively' jacket image. For me the draw of the book is as a 'state of the nation - how we are now' read. However, I'm not an academic, cleric or student, just an interested member of the populus searching for a functioning spirituality.
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Format: Paperback
This fascinating book looks at the religious state of modern Western countries. It starts by examining the flaws in traditional ideas of what it means to be secular and outlines a fresh take on what it really means in today's society. Essentially, Smith presents four key ideas. First that Christianity is a constantly changing religion - something I hadn't thought of before but which he makes a good argument for. Then that Christianity today is very like Christianity in the middle ages - because a lot of people today do believe in God and call themselves Christian, even if they don't go to Church. Third he talks about the Enlightenment - which is key to a lot of what is said about secularism. Here he argues that the Enlightenment did mean the end of the discussion of Christian doctrine but not the end of Christianity. Instead Christian ethics live on in our society - an argument he makes convincingly.

Finally he suggests that the Victorian period was a time of exceptionally high levels of Christianity and that any comparison between then and now is bound to make us look secular. Every age is secular compared with the Victorians!

The book answers the question of how we can call Western society secular when most people say they are Christian or believe in God. It is a clearly written and highly accessible answer to that question.
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Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. It is easy to read, it flows well and makes
a lot of interesting points. Its aim is to make you think in new ways
about secularism and its place in our society. This it does - it made
me think again about what we mean by secularism. What do we mean when
we say the West is secular? What is the place of religion and in
particular belief in God in our society?

There is a question of whether it really does what it says on the tin.
I read the synopsis of the book on the web site and the reviews from
professors and this gives you a good idea of what the book is about. It
is not a book about atheism but then as it says when we say society is
secular we don't really mean it is atheist - it is more complicated than
that. The book helped me understand this - and what people mean when
they say they believe in God or call themselves Christian.

I would recommend the book wholeheartedly, it will stimulate a lot of
thought and debate. Good stuff!
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