by Barry A. Kosmin, Founding Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture and Research Professor, Public Policy and Law Program at Trinity College, Hartford & Juhem Navarro-Rivera, Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC).
Embedded in modernity is the idea that science is a major building block of the secular worldview, and that the progress of science is, de facto, the triumph of the secular worldview. This outlook arises from the close historical, philosophical, and intellectual relationship between the natural sciences and secular ideas and values. Both secular and scientifc values were entrenched within the Enlightenment project of emancipating humanity and actualizing the highest human potentials through the diffusion of knowledge. These goals, in turn, became linked to the quest for liberty, freedom of thought, and popular sovereignty—and thus democracy. The triadic relationship of secular values, scientifc literacy, and social and economic progress, and their role as the building blocks of democracy in the United States, is the subject of this chapter. Our purpose is to demonstrate that particularly in the 21st century, in order to achieve a prosperous society and a healthy, participatory democratic order based on secular values, a high degree of science literacy among the citizenry is necessary.
by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, Professor of Psychology at the University of Haifa, Israel.
Sigmund Freud identifed two major blows to “human megalomania”—blows that destroyed our long-held self-image as unique and superior. The frst blow was the Copernican revolution, which deprived humans of their place at the center of the universe, telling them that earth was in a remote corner of one galaxy among billions. Then came Charles Darwin, putting us in our place as part of the animal kingdom, with no special creation needed for our appearance on earth.
by Jon D. Miller, John A. Hannah Professor of Integrative Studies at Michigan State University & Robert T. Pennock, Professor of Philosophy of Science at Michigan State University in Lyman Briggs College, the Departments of Philosophy, Computer Science and Engineering, and the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior program
For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, there has been an uneasy truce between science and religion in the United States. During the 60 years since the end of the Second World War, the United States has been viewed as the most scientific nation on the planet. American universities and laboratories have developed an extraordinary array of technologies, and are responsible for a substantial portion of our modern scientific understanding of nature. More Americans have been early adopters of new technologies—from automobiles and airplanes to antibiotics and new medical technologies—than adults in any other country. Nine out of ten Americans think that science and technology have made their lives “healthier, easier, and more comfortable.” And yet, on particular issues such as evolution and stem cell research, there has been active political resistance to scientific advancement from at least some religious quarters. Such religious opposition has led to a low-level but ongoing struggle over the content of science education.
by Ariela Keysar, Associate director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture and associate research professor of public policy and law at Trinity College & Barry A. Kosmin, Founding director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture and research professor of public policy and law at Trinity College
Secularity, like religion, takes many forms in American society. Also like religion, it varies in intensity along the trajectories of what are often referred to as the “Three B’s,” belonging, belief, and behavior. Our recently published book, Religion in a Free Market, shows that the American public does not subscribe to a binary system—religion or secularity. Our research found self-identifying Catholics and Lutherans who say they don’t believe in God, Mormons who claim a secular outlook, and religious people who, despite their religiosity, are comfortably married to people of other faiths or no faith at all.
by William A. Stahl, Professor of sociology at Luther College, University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Is anyone in Canada secular? A facetious question. Obviously the answer is yes, but exactly how many is diffcult to determine. There are two problems inherent in the question. A great deal depends, of course, on what one means by “secular,” a problematic term inextricably bound with 19th-century ideology. The second problem is that Canada is paradoxical. On the one hand, self-identifcation with a religious organization is very high and “belief” in God is even higher. On the other hand, few Canadians today attend a place of worship regularly and religion is conspicuously absent from most of public life.
by Ariela Keysar, Associate director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture and associate research professor of public policy and law at Trinity College.
Atheists and Agnostics are fringe populations in U.S. society. Considered by many to be deviant, Atheists are a distrusted group. According to a Gallup Poll from September 2006, a vast majority of the public (84 percent) thinks that Americans are not ready to elect an Atheist as president. Although Atheists and Agnostics are tiny minority groups, the attention they attract, particularly from the religious right, warrants a better understanding of exactly who they are in terms of social characteristics such as gender, age, educational level, ethnicity and political preferences.
by Patricia O’Connell Killen, Professor of religion and director of the Center for Religion, Cultures and Society in the Western United States at Pacifc Lutheran University, Tacoma, Washington
I approach the Pasquale and Stahl chapters as an historian of religion, primarily of Christianity in North America, who has been working for some time on understanding the religious dynamics of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. Most recently, as part of the Religion by Region project of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life, I co-edited Religion and Public Life in the Pacific Northwest: The None Zone with Mark Silk. The volume provides a frst take on two questions:1) What is the religious configuration on the ground in the Pacific Northwest? 2) What difference does it makes for public life in the region?
by Frank L. Pasquale, Research associate of ISSSC engaged in the study of the nonreligious population of the U.S
In survey research, “seculars” has been a variable category encompassing distinguishable types of individuals. There is an everincreasing amount of data emerging from survey work on “seculars” and Nones (those who profess no explicit religious identity or affliation). There has been less direct or detailed attention to the subset of Nones that might be characterized as “quintessential seculars”—the substantially or affrmatively nontranscendental/ notreligious, or “Nots.”