Jacques Berlinerblau, whoses book How to be Secular I reviewed in my last post, took umbrage on Twitter at my characterisation of his argument as anti-democratic. Twitter is not the best medium to have nuanced debate on these kinds of issues, but it was an interesting discussion (the heart of which was a debate not so much about secularism as about democracy) so I have curated the tweets via Storify (slightly reordered to make better sense of the discussion), with some comments thrown in. I hope, however that Jacques Berlinerblau takes up my offer to publish on Pandaemonium any lengthy response he wishes to write. In the meantime here is the Storified Twitter exchange.


  1. @berlinerblau It’s quite possible, as I suggested, to wish away religion in the future and to be secular today. You seem to deny that.

    And I suppose a Christian can still be secular while wishing
    wish away atheism — so long as she beleives the public sphere should be a level playing field. But now imagine if an entire new Christian movement got together for the particular purpose of loudly denouncing Atheism, alleging all sorts of moral and social evils to it.

    We would be suspicious of the secular credentials of such a group, even if it claimed to respect a level playing field. And of course the New Atheists are their mirror image. Perhaps Berlinerblau is getting at something like that when (in K.M’s words) he “…suggests that atheists whose aim is a world free of religion cannot be secularists…”

  2. This is an interesting discussion, but I think it might be a bit clearer if another word were used in place of “secularism.” I realize it figures here in the sense of a belief that the public sphere should be equally accessible to all regardless of their religious affiliations or lack thereof, but is widely used to mean a belief that the world would be better off without religion. Many people describe themselves as secularists in this sense. I’m not sure what word would be better, and I do see the appeal of an effort to claim the word “secular” as a term for neutrality towards religious questions, but I doubt that such an effort can succeed.

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