Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans

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Overview

Today's culture wars are more heated than ever. Education, public policy, and the separation between church and state have become a battlefield, and many are frustrated with the success the Religious Right has had in shaping the national agenda, from putting the brakes on gay marriage in California to stripping textbooks in Texas of references to Thomas Jefferson. But today, a growing nonreligious minority, nearly 20 percent of Americans, are finally organizing and taking explicit political positions. In ...

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Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans

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Overview

Today's culture wars are more heated than ever. Education, public policy, and the separation between church and state have become a battlefield, and many are frustrated with the success the Religious Right has had in shaping the national agenda, from putting the brakes on gay marriage in California to stripping textbooks in Texas of references to Thomas Jefferson. But today, a growing nonreligious minority, nearly 20 percent of Americans, are finally organizing and taking explicit political positions. In Nonbeliever Nation, David Niose argues that America was never in fact a Christian nation and shows how the Religious Right successfully took control of the social and political narrative. He takes us across the country to meet the secular groups now forming in opposition to that force—from humanist gatherings to the rise of the New Atheists to the explosion of secular groups on college and even high school campuses. Niose discusses their political goals, including lobbying efforts, legal strategies, and outreach through advertising and education, and what still needs to be done to make the secular voice a gamechanger in American politics.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[A] passionate, occasionally incendiary call for a secular response to the swelling influence of Christian conservatives.”—The Boston Globe

"This excellent book is simultaneously disturbing and reassuring. David Niose lays bare the whole dismal history of how the Religious Right hijacked America and betrayed the secular intentions of the Founding Fathers.  Fortunately, as he also documents, decent Americans are now fighting back, and the book ends on an uplifting note of hope."—Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion

"A powerful, hard-hitting book, part history, part politics, part religion (and non-religion) and also a manifesto for a secular America. It is a perfect accompaniment for the battle being waged today for America’s future by a moderate Barack Obama against all the weight the Religious Right can bring to bear. I highly recommend Nonbeliever Nation and am confident that it will satisfy a longing in others that it has satisfied in myself: for somebody to stand up and take their place in front of us with that precious candle that illuminates and holds back the darkness of superstition.  We no longer have Carl Sagan, but we do have David Niose."—Politicus

“An excellent overview…Niose communicates a sizable amount of complex information without overloading readers…The good news: secular Americans are emerging. Activism is on the rise, people are identifying and organizing in order to influence sound policy, and student activism especially is growing by leaps and bounds.”—Skeptic magazine

"Niose has done the secular movement a wonderful service by laying out [how it] has the power to steer political discourse back towards evidence and reason."—August Brunsman, Executive Director of the Secular Student Alliance, for The Friendly Athiest blog

“Required reading for seculars.”—Free Inquiry Magazine

"A thorough examination of modern secular movements in America . . . A useful examination of secularism." —Kirkus Reviews

"Niose explores secularism’s extraordinary rise and shows how it offers hope for more rational, inquiry-based public policy and discussion."—Publishers Weekly

“Covering a wide range of territory in a reasonably condensed space, attorney Niose looks at the culture wars from the perspective of secular America. While confronting numerous commonly held misconceptions by believers about secularism (e.g., the religious Right implying that religious faith is part of patriotism), Niose admirably refrains from antireligious hostility, striving for equality rather than proving the superiority of his perspective. . . . This is a calm, informative, and positive portrait of the rapidly growing secular segment of the American population. Highly recommended for politically oriented readers of all religious persuasions.”—Library Journal

"David Niose is a leading advocate for America's secular movement. In Nonbeliever Nation, he demonstrates not only that America's secular demographic is more numerous and better organized than ever, but that this segment of society offers much hope for rational public policy and discourse."—Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and the author of The Better Angels of our Nature

"In the long moral arc of the universe that has been bending toward justice, freedom, and prosperity for centuries, the last of the great civil rights revolutions is under way—the civil liberties for secularists, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and nonbelievers of all stripes. David Niose has outlined the blueprint of this revolution in his powerful call to ideas that can change the world. Nonbeliever Nation is The Feminist Mystique of this movement, destined to be a classic in freedom literature."—Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of The Believing Brain

"Using solid research, David Niose reminds us that the United States is by no means a religious nation let alone a Christian one— nor was it ever intended to be. Citing dozens of compelling examples, he lays bare the stunning hypocrisy of religious leaders in the United States. Despite religious claims to the contrary, he clearly correlates our degrading environment, low science literacy, and relatively high crime rate… with religion. His message builds and urges us nonbelievers to promote a thoughtful worldview. He shows that saying you’re religious– and claiming to know absolutely what is good and what is not— is bad for all of us."—Bill Nye, The Science Guy®, CEO of the The Planetary Society, and Humanist of the Year 2010

“Read this book - and you will see that not only are Secular Americans getting louder and more confident, they've actually been here from the very beginning.  Well-written and thought-provoking, David Niose makes it clear that we are all part of a larger movement.”—Julia Sweeney, actress, comedian, former SNL cast member

"Dave Niose is a highly valued and respected leader in the secular movement."—Wendy Kaminer, author of Free for All and I’m Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional

"Dave Niose writes clearly and concisely and advocates effectively for the secular tradition. I expect Secular Americans who read this book will feel more motivated to seek the visibility and respect they so richly deserve."—Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition for America

"David Niose is a talented writer with keen insights into contemporary secularism. As a key leader in the secular movement, Niose is uniquely situated to help Americans understand this fast-growing phenomenon."—Rob Boston, author of Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State

Library Journal
Covering a wide range of territory in a reasonably condensed space, attorney Niose (president, American Humanist Assoc.) looks at the culture wars from the perspective of secular America. While confronting numerous commonly held misconceptions by believers about secularism (e.g., the religious Right implying that religious faith is part of patriotism), Niose admirably refrains from antireligious hostility, striving for equality rather than proving the superiority of his perspective. Much of the book is devoted to the Constitution, the role of the religious Right in American political and social life, and the recent emergence of a more organized secular movement. However, Niose's most significant contribution is in laying out a new legal strategy that utilizes the Equal Protection Clause rather than the Establishment Clause of the Constitution to underline the rights of secular Americans in not practicing religion. VERDICT This is a calm, informative, and positive portrait of the rapidly growing secular segment of the American population. Highly recommended for politically oriented readers of all religious persuasions—although readers from the Left are most likely to read it—and those interested in accessible discussions of constitutional issues.—Brian T. Sullivan, Alfred Univ. Lib., NY
Kirkus Reviews
American Humanist Association president Niose provides a thorough examination of modern secular movements in America, while lumping believers together in disdain. From the beginning of the book, the author pits "Secular Americans" (identified as atheists, agnostics, humanists and those who are generally nonreligious) against "the Religious Right," an amorphous group who appear throughout as the source of most of America's ills over the past 30 years. Niose points out that while nonbelievers have always existed in American society, only recently have they begun to act to institute changes in public policy, mainly as a direct reaction to the religious right. Looking back to America's founding, Niose argues that "a fair assessment of history would reveal that the structure of American government was not intended to be either proreligion or antireligion, but simply neutral on religion." Where religion did become involved in early American public life, he writes, it was harmful or even disastrous (e.g., the Salem witch trials). Niose echoes the argument of other modern nonbelievers that religion is usually immoral in its effects on society, whereas secularism is untainted by any immoral past. This sets the stage for the author's extended assault on the religious right, which is characterized as anti-intellectual, hypocritical and belligerent. The most useful part of the book is Niose's survey of the rise of organized secularism. He discusses important figures in the secular movement, landmark Supreme Court cases and the creation and growth of national organizations. Readers hoping to better understand the background of today's secular movement will find solid material, and secular activists will applaud the author's zeal for the cause. The vast majority of religious Americans, however, will not see themselves in this book at all. While it may be understandable that Niose attacks the most radical of the faithful, it is less understandable that he ignores the existence of the vast majority of people of faith. A loaded attack on religion redeemed by a useful examination of secularism.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230338951
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 7/17/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,029,715
  • Product dimensions: 14.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Niose is president of the American Humanist Association and an attorney who has litigated on behalf of secular groups and individuals in church-state and equal rights matters. Author of the popular Psychology Today blog “Our Humanity, Naturally,” he has been interviewed on national television and radio including Fox News, the Associated Press, The National Journal, the BBC, Thom Hartmann’s show, Alan Colmes Radio Show, and many others. Niose has also served on the Advisory Board of the Secular Coalition for America and initiated the first-ever national advertising campaign by a secular group in America.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2012

    This book provides an excellent overview of the culture wars, wi

    This book provides an excellent overview of the culture wars, with lots of historical background and discussion of all the major issues. Unlike any other book on this subject I have seen, it also provides information on why the religious right has been winning, and why more rational views have been losing. It also provides lots of interesting information on the movement of atheists, humanists, and other secular people who are starting to fight back against the religious right. A great read.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 17, 2013

    A truly wonderful book!

    I recommend this book for everyone. It clearly explains why keeping religion out of government is good for all of us.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2012

    This is a much needed book that explains how the religious right

    This is a much needed book that explains how the religious right took over America AND it shows what can be done about it.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2012

    I will sum it up in 1 word. Frightening!

    I will sum it up in 1 word. Frightening!

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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