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The Secular Outlook : In Defense of Moral and Political Secularism - Paul Cliteur

The Secular Outlook

In Defense of Moral and Political Secularism


Published: 7th September 2010
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"This is a brave and timely book, a light in the gathering Endarkenment. Cliteur responds lucidly to the West's many failures of political nerve, to the new climate of rationalizing the irrational and appeasing authoritarians. He advances a powerful case for the values of freedom and reason." Russell Blackford, Co-editor for 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists

Instead of the move towards secularization predicted by many social thinkers, the closing decades of the twentieth century witnessed a major upsurge in religion-followed by a resurgence of religious fanaticism and global religious terrorism. Was the "Secularization thesis" really such a dismal failure? And, perhaps more importantly, how should we react to the spiritual and ideological challenges that radical religious movements pose to Western liberal democracies?

Using a variety of thought-provoking arguments, The Secular Outlook: In Defense of Moral and Political Secularism argues for a "secular outlook" on society and politics to meet the challenges of religious extremism in the twenty-first century. Unlike the highly polemical writings of authors such as Dewkins, Harris, and Hitchens, philosopher Paul Cliteur does not vociferously defend atheism-but neither does he defend theism. Instead, he reveals how religious believers and non-believers can live together peacefully by pointing to principles that the state should use to stimulate its citizenry to achieve social harmony and social cohesion. With chapters on atheism, religious criticism, free speech, and moral secularism, Cliteur offers a perspective that is in the interest of all citizens of multireligious and liberal democracies. Timely and stimulating. The Secular Outlook offers a surprisingly optimistic view on the social and political challenges we face in the increasingly complex contemporary world.

"This book would be ideal for an upper-level undergraduate orgraduate religious studies or philosophy seminar. Highly educatedlay readers and academics interested in religion and secularismwill also likely find the book of interest." (Journal ofContemporary Religion, 1 January 2012)

"The book is a balanced account of what went wrong in defendingliberal democracy in the past two decades and what is to be done torevigorate the foundations for liberal democracy ." (Acta Politica,2011)

"It is a level-headed contribution to an important debate abouthow best to address religious fundamentalism and politicalfanaticism." (The Christian Century, 8 March 2011)

"Cliteur's book is timely and well written. It covers some veryrecent events, and offers coherent - if sometime impatient -perspectives on religion from the secular standpoint. Recommended.Upper-level undergraduates through researchers/faculty." (Choice,1 April 2011)

"You actually have to focus on the paragraphs. That doesn't meanthat the style is inaccessible or difficult - not at all, it's veryreadable - but this is a meaty book that asks for (and rewards) acertain amount of concentration." (Metamagician and the HellfireClub, 7 April 2011)

"The primary goal of this book, its author says, is 'toshow how religious believers and unbelievers can live peacefullytogether and what principles the state should try to stimulate inits citizenry to achieve social harmony and social cohesion.' Herecommends a moral and political vision which he calls ""a 'secularoutlook' on life."" Its four main components are atheism, criticismof religion, free speech, and 'moral autonomy.' Cliteur wantsus to be freethinkers and to expose the ways in which sacred textsactually endorse or even encourage violence, terrorism, andinjustice. Cliteur is right, of course, that free inquiry andcriticism should be protected." (Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews,6 March 2011)

"Accessible, engaging and convincing, it is the perfect tome forthose who wish to learn about the ethical and logical case for asecular moral and political framework." (Tribune, 4 March 2011)

"A robust defence of the Enlightenment tradition and a must-readfor those concerned by the corrosive aspects of religion onsociety." (Times Higher Education, 10 February 2011)

"But Cliteur challenges this interpretation, charging Armstrongwith seeking to dismiss fundamentalism as a 'perversion' ofreligion when in fact the fundamentalists can claim to be adoptingthe very attitude their sacred texts demand." (Church of EnglandNewspaper, 7 January 2011)

"The book has an interesting discussion of the philosophicaljustifications of free expression. Free
thought, combining religious criticism and freedom of speech, isnecessary for emancipating
humankind." (Open Parachute, 18 November 2010)

"The Secular Outlook is a thought-provoking discussion of howliberal, secular democracies can and should respond to extremismand a much-needed exposition of the vital importance, in thatresponse, of rationality and an emphasis on common humanity." (NewInternationalist, 1 December 2010)

"Secularism is one of those concepts that is widely usedwithout a clear notion of what it is. Dutch humanist philosopherPaul Cliteur's The Secular Out - look: In Defense ofMoral and Political Secularism supplies a theoreticalclarification of what secularism is and what it is not. However, the book is more than a helpful analytical exercise-it is also anurgent plea for political and moral secularism." (FreeInquiry, October 2010)

Introduction: The Secular Outlook.

1. Atheism, Agnosticism, and Theism.

The Alpha Privative.

Atheism and Liberal Concepts of God.

Atheism as an Unpopular Position.

A Definition of Atheism.

Motives for Atheism.

Atheist Values.

Spiritual Excellences and the Liberal Decalogue.


The History of Agnosticism.

Huxley and Russell.

Pascal?s Wager.

Pascal?s Insight.

Atheism or Non-Theism?

2. Freethought I: Criticism of Religion.

?Ecrasez l?Infâme?.

Religion and Evil.

Religious Violence.

Father and Daughter.

How to Discover a Relationship between Religion and Violence.

Ramadan v. Hirsi Ali.

Religion ?per se?.

Textual Relativism.

Can Translation Mitigate All Immoral Passages in Scripture?

Can Interpretation Mitigate All Immoral Passages in Scripture?

Why Are ?Moderates? so Reluctant to Criticize Religion?

The Bible on Apostasy.

Biblical Terrorism: The Story of Phinehas.

Biblical Violence and Modern Legal Practice.

The Book of History.

Some Objections.

3. Freethought II: Freedom of Expression.

Mill on Liberty.

Khomeini v. Rushdie.

Fukuyama Giving Up on the Arab World.

The Limits of Free Speech.

The Deontological and Utilitarian Justifications for Free Speech.

Clifford on the Duty to Critique.

Freedom of Speech and Philosophers on the Index.

Intolerance not Restricted to Islam.

Giniewski v. France.

Freethought under Fire.

People Are not Being Insulted for Having a Religion.

Racism without Race.

Social Criticism not Identical with the Urge to Provoke.

Flemming Rose on Why He Published the Danish Cartoons.

The Theory of Evolution: Too Controversial to Defend?

Is There Another Way to Discover the Truth than by Free Discussion?

4. Moral and Political Secularism.

Pope Benedict XVI on the Apostles? Creed.

?Who Are You to Tell Believers What to Believe??

What Judaism, Christendom, and Islam Have in Common: Theism.

Divine Command Theories.

Abraham and Isaac.

The Story of Abraham in the Qur?an.

The Story of Jephtha.

Adherents of Divine Command Theory.

Command Ethics or Divine Command Ethics?

An Assessment of Divine Command Ethics.

Kierkegaard and Mill.

Kohlberg and Moral Education.

Religious and Secular Ethics.


Kant?s Struggle with Moral Autonomy and Free Speech.

Kant?s Legacy in Nineteenth-Century German Theology.

Schleiermacher as the Father of Modern Hermeneutics.

Armstrong?s Plea for Liberal Interpretation.

A New Way to Look at the ?Sacredness? of Scripture?

Classic Books and Sacred Books.

Violating the Integrity of the Text.

Is Hermeneutics the Only Way to Modernize Traditions?

Is Islam ?Secularization-Resistant??

Two Kinds of Reformers: Liberal Islam and Secular Islam.

Selected Reading.


ISBN: 9781444335217
ISBN-10: 1444335219
Series: Blackwell Public Philosophy
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 317
Published: 7th September 2010
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 22.8 x 15.4  x 1.8
Weight (kg): 0.45
Edition Number: 1