Books in Brief

The author is chief executive of Humanists UK, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, and a former director of the European Humanist Foundation.  He describes his book as “not intended as an argument for secularism but as an introduction to it, in the hope that secularism will become better known as a concept and we can have more fruitful discussions and debates about it.”  Why Mr. Copson supposes secularism to be not well known is unclear.  It seems to me that the nature of the thing could hardly be more plain.  Nor is it clear why he thinks there could be “fruitful discussions and debates” on the subject between secularists and believers, between whom a great chasm has been fixed.  His first, lengthy chapter, “What is Secularism?,” is not an explanation of the phenomenon but a history of its progress in the increasingly “enlightened” West, as many people learned to reject “received wisdom and authoritarian politics,” which Copson obviously believes are inexorably, and uniquely, linked.  He thinks secularism is both increasingly necessary in a “diverse” world and a contribution to its increasing diversity, which he views as valuable in its own right.  Secularism, besides representing truth for him, is also a means toward a socially engineered and beneficial pluralism.  Thus, he is concerned that the global rise...

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