Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism
The right wing has thrown down the gauntlet. Are we a society that is founded upon the precepts of a Christian God as viewed by a fundamentalist faction, or are we a secular democracy that embraces all religions? In short, are we a secular society of inclusion, reason, diversity, and individual faith, or are we mandated to be a certain kind of intolerant Christian society, along the lines of the pre Civil-War South?
Susan Jacoby reawakens us to the rich history and our Constitutional founding as a secular nation grounded in the concept of "We the People." That is the essence of democracy. It reversed the old European models of government that were founded on status quo that existed with a fixed religious hierarchy and royal lineage.
America was a child of the age of reason in rebellion against the unchallenged, mandated world order of, yes, the truly "old Europe."
That's not to say that anyone is contending that American citizens can't be people "of God." Quite the opposite, that was an essential guarantee in the creation of America. But the power of the government comes from the people, not from God mandating the government, as George W. Bush has claimed -- and Antonin Scalia evangelizes around the nation.
The right wing has turned democracy on its head and restored a world view held at the time of our Revolution, ironically, by much of the "Old Europe" at that time. Bush's ongoing failures and lies cannot be faulted because they are, he implies, the outgrowth of divine guidance. To attack Bush is to attack God and an imagined world order, he and his followers would like us to believe.
This is the very conundrum our founding fathers were attempting to prevent in the creation of our Constitution. Bush, they envisioned, as a President, is accountable as a citizen holding a governmental position to the electorate of America. His relationship with God is his own business. His work must stand or fall on its own merit.
These are just some of the implications of Susan Jacoby's invigorating reminder to us of our secular roots that embraced the views and religions of all citizens, while making government accountable to the people, not the deity of one particular religious sect.
We will close our recommendation with a quote from playwright Arthur Miller in praise of "Freethinkers":
"This book is fresh air for those who defend the separation of church and state. Here, clearly written and without apologetics, is the noble record of the struggle to retain America's precious freedom of conscience, her pride for two centuries, now under threat from the political Right as never before." -- Arthur Miller