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Why I am Not a Secularist Paperback – 1 May 1999

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 220 pages
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press (1 May 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0816633320
  • ISBN-13: 978-0816633326
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 1.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 744,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

William E. Connolly is editor of Political Theory and Professor of Political Science at The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore. His books include The Terms of Political Discourse (1974, second edition 1983), Appearance and Reality in Politics (1981) and Politics and Ambiguity (1987), and he co-edits with Steven Lukes the series Readings in Social and Political Theory (published by Basil Blackwell and New York University Press).


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Format: Hardcover
Connolly once again provokes and inspires. This leading political theorist and recent winner of the prestigious Lippincott Award for his classic Terms of Political Discourse shows in this book why the impasse between secularists and theistic thinking can best be overcome through a cultivation of a new kind of pluralist enagement with others. This is a breakthrough we've all been waiting for. "Heaven is a place, a place where nothing ever happens."
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Format: Paperback
This is not a book about religious belief but an examination of the secular in the sphere of public discourse. Connolly argues that secularists try "to seal public life from religious doctrines" while trying to determine "a set of non theistic orientations to reverence, ethics and public life that deserve to be heard". This he regards as conceited because, "the secular wish to contain religious and irreligious passions within private life helps to engender the immodest conceptions of public life peddled by so many secularists". By contrast Connolly is an advocate of a deeper, thicker, pluralism with room for competing ideas, including those with a religious basis, which will permit the political stalemate between theists and secularists to be overcome.

Although Connolly is seeking to redefine the secular in a manner which removes it from its historical opposition to religion he seems to miss the crucial point that politics and religion prior to Kant were indistinguishable aspects of the same political phenomenon. Although he acknowledges the politics of becoming, i.e. the development of groups and ideas as meaningful pieces of changing democracies and their discourse, he separates liberal theory, secular practice and the role of religion in public life in a manner which fails to recognise their integrated nature.

To demonstrate the applicability of changes in the manner in which political problems may be resolved Connolly takes two issues - the drugs/culture wars and capital punishment.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9647230c) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9647f7c8) out of 5 stars From its title, i wished for better 29 April 2010
By Joseph M. Hennessey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was disappointed that for me, the title "Why i am not a Secularist" only covered the introduction and first chapter of the book. The other 6 chapters could have free standing essays, barely connected to the first few by a few sentences here and there. I probably would not have purchased the book had i known it was a collection of essays.

By the title, Connolly, who admits that he is a secular liberal, declares himself not to be a secular-ist, in the sense of a dogmatic, close minded person who will not be happy until every vestige of religiosity is removed from the public square. It is refreshing that Connolly makes this admission, rather than pretending that he has no ideology, only his adversaries do. He tries to create a space where dialogue can occur between secularists and religionists. He does so partly out of concern for his own side, the secularists, because he thinks that the religionists have 'stolen' the visceral, passionate side to many public arguments, while liberals are then 'stuck' with the merely rational arguments, although this is at best a backhanded compliment to the religious.

Connolly, citing John Mill and others, shows how the enlightenment did develop, only could have developed, and still lives off of the moral capital, of the Christendom it replaced.

In chapter 6, entitled "An Ethos of Engagement," Connolly proposes various exercises which he hopes would create better dialogue between secularists and religionists, rather than the dialogue of the deaf which we now have. He calls for more openness, to admitting that some or all of your own beliefs are contestable and desanctifiable. Fine. But then on pp. 146-147, he gives only one example, a lengthy description of how one who began the engagement rock solid against assisted suicide could become more 'open' to it, until you are positively for assisted suicide. No examples of anyone entertaining liberal positions transcending them to become more conservative. Lest one doubt Connolly's left credentials, there are extended chapters against capital punishment and William Bennett, not to say the former for the latter!

If you can find this in a library, read the introduction and first chapter; the rest is predictable liberal micro-politics.

However, it behooves Western religionists to sympathize more with its 'child', enlightened secularism, and their mutual grandchildren, the physical sciences, representative democracy, the use of reason and not blind fideism.

And it behooves Western secularists to be more appreciate of Western religionists, who are of a benign variety and who have long given up the idea of forcibly controlling those area of society properly secular, as mandated in the Catholic church since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960's, so as better to understand and withstand a culture which makes no such concessions, like Islam.
0 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x968143b4) out of 5 stars Three Stars 31 Aug. 2014
By Georgemckay - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hard. To. Read
14 of 49 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9673dccc) out of 5 stars a great antidote to cynicism 16 Aug. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Connolly once again provokes and inspires. This leading political theorist and recent winner of the prestigious Lippincott Award for his classic Terms of Political Discourse shows in this book why the impasse between secularists and theistic thinking can best be overcome through a cultivation of a new kind of pluralist enagement with others. This is a breakthrough we've all been waiting for. "Heaven is a place, a place where nothing ever happens."
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