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Freedom of Religion and the Secular State

ISBN: 978-0-470-67403-1
224 pages
February 2012, Wiley-Blackwell
Freedom of Religion and the Secular State (0470674032) cover image


Exploring the relationship between religion and the state

Focusing on the intersection of religion, law, and politics in contemporary liberal democracies, Blackford considers the concept of the secular state, revising and updating enlightenment views for the present day. Freedom of Religion and the Secular State offers a comprehensive analysis, with a global focus, of the subject of religious freedom from a legal as well as historical and philosophical viewpoint. It makes an original contribution to current debates about freedom of religion, and addresses a whole range of hot-button issues that involve the relationship between religion and the state, including the teaching of evolution in schools, what to do about the burqa, and so on.

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Table of Contents

1 Motivation and Overview 1

2 A Short History of Religious Intolerance 20

3 Hobbes, Locke, and their Legacy: Models of the Modern State 34

4 Religious Impositions and Endorsements 56

5 Religion-Based Morality and the Secular State 67

6 Persecution, Accommodation, and Conscientious Objection 94

7 Private Power, Religious Communities, and the State 118

8 Religious Freedom and the Interests of Children 141

9 Religious Freedom and Freedom of Speech 169

10 Back to Locke: Concluding Remarks 198

Index 202

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Author Information

Russell Blackford is an Australian philosopher and literary critic, based at the University of Newcastle, NSW. He is editor-in-chief of The Journal of Evolution and Technology, and co-editor, with Udo Schüklenk, of 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists. His areas of expertise include legal and political philosophy, philosophical bioethics, metaethics, and philosophy of religion. He has published essays, stories, and reviews in a wide range of magazines, anthologies, and academic journals.
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Rare are the books that effectively discuss and connect philosophical background and practical foreground. Russell Blackford’s Freedom of Religion and the Secular State is one.  Blackford’s always and admirably accessible overview covers not only a wide range of prominent controversies, but a number of equally crucial yet commonly overlooked issues such as religious proselytizing and the legitimacy of official church establishments.”  (The
Review of Politics
, 1 November 2013)

“Freedom of Religion & the Secular State could not be more timely. If it becomes a standard text in colleges and universities, and, more generally, became a handy reference to those intimately concerned with questions regarding the separation of religion and state, then possibly, despite continuing heat over the subject, a little cool reflection could mediate the divide.”  (Atheists United, 2012)

"I found the book to be concise and deceptively simply written, but with great depth of analysis. Of course, as a non-religious person, perhaps it is hardly surprising that I enjoyed Blackford's analysis so much: in a sense, he is already "preaching to the converted" for a reader like myself. However, I think it would probably provide much food for thought for the reasonable religious person too." (Skepticlawyer, 9 February 2012)

"But anyway, even with this, this book is a must-have. It needs to be kept to hand in any discussion of Western secularism." (Steve's Posterous, 28 January 2012)

"This worthy contribution to the debate on religious freedom analyses the history and thinking that has underpinned western society today ... Whilst written by an academic, the style and language open up a complex and important debate to a mass audience and clearly underline the principles at stake for both state and church." (Life & Work, 1 February 2012)

"Freedom of Religion and the Secular State offers a comprehensive analysis, with a global focus, of the subject of religious freedom from a legal as well as historical and philosophical viewpoint." (The Richard Dawkins Foundation, 16 December 2011)

This is a must-read: Blackford has given us a forceful and persuasive book that will have a big impact on the debate it addresses.

AC Grayling, Professor of Philosophy and Master of the New College of the Humanities, London

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