Secular Conscience

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2008-03-01
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books

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The open, secular society is in retreat. From Washington to Rome to Tehran, religion is a public matter as never before, and secular values -- personal autonomy, toleration, separation of religion and state, and freedom of conscience -- are attacked on all sides and defended by few. The godly claim a monopoly on the language of morality in public debate, while secular liberals stand accused of standing for nothing. Secular liberals have undone themselves. For generations, too many have insisted that questions of conscience-religion, ethics, and values are "private matters" that have no place in public debate. Ironically, this ideology prevents them from subjecting religion to due scrutiny when it encroaches on individual rights and from unabashedly defending their own moral vision in politics for fear of "imposing" their beliefs on others. In this incisive book, philosopher Austin Dacey calls for a bold rethinking of the nature of conscience and its role in public life. Inspired by an earlier liberal tradition he traces to Spinoza and John Stuart Mill, Dacey urges liberals to lift their self-imposed gag order and argues for a secularism based on the objective moral value of questions of conscience. He likens conscience to the press in an open society: it should be protected from coercion and control, not because it is private, but because of its vital role in the public sphere. Conscience is free, but not free from shared standards of truth and right. Marshalling the latest research on belief, the mind, and ethics, The Secular Conscience delivers a compelling ideal for the future of the open, secular society.

Author Biography

Austin Dacey is a representative to the United Nations for the Center for Inquiry in New York City, where he works on issues of science and secular values.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 7
How Secularism Lost Its Soulp. 23
Why Belief Belongs in Public Life (And Unbelievers Should Be Glad)p. 43
Spinoza's Guide to Theocracyp. 59
Why There Are No Religions of the Bookp. 85
Has God Found Science?p. 97
Darwin Made Me Do Itp. 115
Original Virtuep. 133
The Search for the Theory of Everyonep. 151
Ethics from Belowp. 165
The Ultima and the Community of Consciencep. 183
The Future Is Opennessp. 199
Acknowledgmentsp. 213
Endnotesp. 215
Indexp. 261
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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