The Decline of the Secular University: Why the Academy Needs Religion / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $3.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 85%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (16) from $3.99   
  • New (8) from $11.10   
  • Used (8) from $3.99   


The American university has embraced a thorough secularism that makes it increasingly marginal in a society that is characterized by high levels of religious belief. The very secularization that was supposed to be a liberating influence has resulted in the university's failure to provide leadership in political, cultural, social, and even scientific arenas.

In The Decline of the Secular University, C. John Sommerville explores several different ways in which the secular university fails in its mission through its trivialization of religion. He notes how little attention is being given to defining the human, so crucial in all aspects of professional education. He alerts us to problems associated with the prevailing secular distinction between "facts" and "values." He reviews how the elimination of religion hampers the university from understanding our post-Cold War world. Sommerville then shows how a greater awareness of the intellectual resources of religion might stimulate more forthright attention to important matters like our loss of a sense of history, how to problematize secularism, the issue of judging religions, the oddity of academic moralizing, and the strangeness of science at the frontiers.

Finally, he invites the reader to imagine a university where religion is not ruled out but rather welcomed as a legitimate voice among others. Sommerville's bracing and provocative arguments are sure to provoke controversy and stimulate discussion both inside and outside the academy.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This intelligent work is essential reading for all who share concern about the quality of higher education and teh secular eroding of its intended purposes."--Journal of Dispensational Theology

"Everyone who cares about the quality of higher education should read this book. It presents the best case I have seen for why the dogged secularism of many universities is undermining the announced purposes of higher education. Secularists may dismiss Sommerville's most telling observations, but they will find them difficult to counter."--George Marsden, author of The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief and Jonathan Edwards: A Life

"Sommerville's arguments will threaten and infuriate many, but his challenge deserves to be engaged. Many secular, particularly state, universities suffer from a hollowness or duplicity at their core, which ultimately undercuts their intellectual mission. Many within who embrace thicker worldviews simply work around that hollowness and duplicity. Sommerville here takes it all head-on, with a case portending deep transformations of higher education in decades ahead."--Christian Smith, author of Moral, Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture

"John Sommerville's intelligent assessment of the contemporary American research university is part jeremiad, part careful history, part insightful current events, part trenchant criticism, part hopeful dreaming. Particularly in his brief against the mindless drift of secularism and for a thoughtful correction by religious conviction, Sommerville offers sage wisdom that all who value the life of the mind should take seriously indeed."--Mark Noll, author of America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln

"Universities should really matter. John Sommerville explains why they matter less and less - and how they could again matter by taking up the questions that really matter. "--(The Rev.) Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief of First Things

"John Sommerville has written a valuable book that calls universities to task for their narrowness in addressing the big questions of what it means to be human, how to understand history, and what to think about difficult moral issues. He suggests as one possibility that academics reconsider the role of religion. This will strike many as a novel idea. They are the ones who especially need to read this book."--Robert Wuthnow, author of American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to Be a Better Nation Fall Short

"Brief, hard-hitting, and often brilliant, this treatise builds the controversial argument that secular universities in America have neglected religion at their peril."--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Recommended for anyone interested in the relationship between religion and higher education." --Journal of Education and Christian Belief

"The study is an important contribution toward redefining the idea of a university or at least recalling what a university could--and should--be."--"Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195306958
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/7/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

C. John Sommerville is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Florida. A Member of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton and Senior Fellow at Harvard's Center for the Study of World Religions, he also recently contributed to the Pew Younger Scholars' Mentoring Program. He is the author of several books, including The Secularization of Early Modern England: From Religious Culture to Religious Faith, The News Revolution in England: Cultural Dynamics of Daily Information, and The Rise and Fall of Childhood.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

1 The marginalization of our universities 3
2 Trouble defining the human 23
3 Trouble maintaining the fact/value dichotomy 39
4 Trouble eliminating religion 47
5 Trouble judging religions 61
6 Science gets strange 75
7 Teaching about secularism, or teaching secularism? 85
8 Losing a sense of history 97
9 Moralizing as a bad habit 111
10 How religious scholars could contribute 121
11 Postsecularism and the university 135
12 A vision of the future 143
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)