Religion in the National Agenda: What We Mean by Religious, Spiritual, Secular


This work formulates nominal definitions of "religion" and "religious" and explores how those definitions impact current controversies over religion in the public.
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This work formulates nominal definitions of "religion" and "religious" and explores how those definitions impact current controversies over religion in the public.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Should become a must-read for anyone interested in debates about "religion" and religion in the United States and beyond.

-Charles Mathewes, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

Religion in the National Agenda is a significant contribution to an important discussion.

Christian Smith, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology, University of Notre Dame

Publishers Weekly

We all talk about it, but historian Sommerville says we don't do so in the right way. This work seeks to end the confusion in American public life over what religion is by studying the definition of the word itself rather than the thing. "Religion is something," Sommerville argues, "that must be defined before we can identify cases." Sommerville says we need a nominal rather than a functional definition, but readers may grow frustrated that he never states exactly what this would be. His work's strength, however, is in showing us the ways we use the word religion-and the problems those usages produce-in a variety of fields such as education, law, science and politics. In politics, for example, we often make the mistake of treating religion as a set of ideas when instead we should think of it as an experience of transcendence. General readers may find this distinction irrelevant and see Sommerville's discussion as frustrating if not overly theoretical. Still, scholars will appreciate the important questions the author raises about language, theory and methodology when we talk about religion. (Feb.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781602581630
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2009
  • Pages: 210
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

C. John Sommerville (Ph.D. University of Iowa) is Emeritus Professor of History, University of Florida. He is the author of nine books, including most recently, The Decline of the Secular University (2006), How the News Makes Us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society (1999), and The News Revolution in England: Cultural Dynamic of Daily Information (1996).
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Table of Contents


1 Groing Confusion over Religion and Spirituality 1

2 Defining "Religious" and "Religion" 27

3 Why Religion and Education Challenge Each Other 53

4 Religion and the Law 83

5 Religion and Political Variety 105

6 Science and Reductionism 131

7 Sciences of Human Life 149

8 Religion and Theologies at Odds 167

9 What We Mean by Secular 195

Notes 205

Index 235

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