Secularism: The Basics
Secularism: The Basics is a concise and engaging introduction to confusing and contradictory public discussions of secularism across the globe.
“Secularism” must be the most confused and convoluted term in the entire global political lexicon. From New York to Paris, to Istanbul, to Addis Ababa, to New Delhi, to Montevideo, there are countless examples of politicians, religious leaders and journalists, invoking the S-word in heated debates about public education, gender, sex, national symbols, and artistic freedom. In this lively and lucid book, Jacques Berlinerblau addresses why secularism is defined in so many ways and why it so ignites people’s passions. In so doing, he explores the following important questions: What does secularism mean? Why should we care about this idea? What are the different types of secularism and what are their histories? What are the basic principles of political secularisms? Why are secularism and Atheism often confused? What is the relationship between secularism and LGBTQ rights? What opposition are secularisms up against? What does the future hold for a concept millennia in the making, but only really operationalized in the twentieth century?
With a glossary of key terms, case studies, informative tables, and suggestions for further reading throughout, the book considers key philosophical, religious, anti-religious, post-modern and post-colonial arguments around secularism. This book is an ideal starting point for anyone seeking a readable introduction to the often-conflicting interpretations of one of our era’s most complex and controversial ideas.
1. The S-Word: Define Your Terms!
Part One: The Ten Principles of Political Secularism
2. Who’s on Top?: The Two Kingdoms
3. "Thought is Free": Martin Luther and Early Modernity
4. "Burning Zeal": John Locke and the Enlightenment
Part Two: Frameworks of Political Secularism in Global Perspective
5. American Secularism: The (Wobbly) Separationist Framework
6. French Secularism: The Laïcité Framework
7. Indian Secularism: The Accommodationist Framework
8. Swerves: Secularism. Atheism.
9. Atheist Secularism: The Soviet Framework
10. Embrace Complexity!: Turkey, Ethiopia, China
Part Three: Anti-Secularism, Lifestyle Secularisms, and a Case Study
11. Anti-Secularisms of the Right (Conservative Religious Anti-Secularism)
12. Anti-Secularisms of the Left
13. Lifestyle Secularisms
14. LGBTQ Rights in Uruguay and Secularstan (With Alex Lin and Ria Pradhan)
15. Conclusion: Love the Referee?
"Clear and comprehensive, Jacques Berlinerblau's Secularism: The Basics is a key contribution to a perennially important topic."
Caroline Mala Corbin, University of Miami School of Law, USA
"Smart, original and provocative, Belinerblau’s book is essential reading for anyone who dares to use the word ‘secular’."
Lori G. Beaman, University of Ottawa, Canada.
"This book is superb. Berlinerblau is careful, fair, and honest in his treatment of secularism and its many manifestations. He has compiled his decades of research on this topic into a short, clear, and very insightful volume. The chapter on leftist critiques of secularism should be mandatory reading for all scholars interested in secularism. Anyone who cares about this topic will need to be familiar with this book. This will be my go-to reference on secularism from now on."
Ryan Cragun, University of Tampa, USA.
"What a rare combination of great scholarly expertise and the courage to simplify! This engagingly written book breaks down complex meanings of secularism, discusses its historical manifestations and current controversies and provides a fierce defence of its political relevance in today’s world."
Johannes Quack, University of Zurich, Switzerland.
"Sharp, informative, insightful, engaging, accessible, authoritative – and beautifully cogent."
Phil Zuckerman, Pitzer College, USA.
"Berlinerblau could have called this pithy and eminently engagingly written text, "a handbook on the varieties of secularism," because his main point is this: There is no single definition or political manifestation of secularism"
Jonathon Kahn, Journal of Church and State, 2022;, csac079, https://doi.org/10.1093/jcs/csac079
"Secularism delivers on its promise to cover the basics, which are presented as digestible components with chapter-specific further reading lists around which topical essay assignments could be designed. Berlinerblau has succeeded in writing an engaging and pedagogically useful introduction to secularism."
Eva Braunstein, Reading Religion, JAAR, July 28, 2023