As a society, we need to debate issues of conscience and morality Dacey s subtitle, Why Belief Belongs in Public Life, suggests that everyone s opinions both believers and nonbelievers should be heard in the public square However, everyone s beliefs and values should also be debated vigorously in the public square You can to bring your religious values to the debate, but be prepared to defend them according to the usual standards honesty, rationality, consistency, evidence, feasibility, legality, morality, and revisability. From Washington To The Vatican To Tehran, Religion Is A Public Matter As Never Before, And Secular Values Individual Autonomy, Pluralism, Separation Of Religion And State, And Freedom Of Conscience Are Attacked On All Sides And Defended By Few The Godly Claim A Monopoly On The Language Of Morality, While Secular Liberals Stand Accused Of Standing For NothingSecular Liberals Did Not Lose Their Moral Compass They Gave It Away For Generations, Too Many Have Insisted That Questions Of Conscience Religion, Ethics, And Values Are Private Matters That Have No Place In Public Debate Ironically, This Ideology Hinders Them From Subjecting Religion To Due Scrutiny When It Encroaches On Individual Rights And From Unabashedly Advocating Their Own Moral Vision In Politics For Fear Of Imposing Their Beliefs On OthersIn His Incisive New Book, Philosopher Austin Dacey Calls For A Bold Rethinking Of The Nature Of Conscience And Its Role In Public Life Inspired By An Earlier Liberal Tradition That He Traces To Spinoza And John Stuart Mill, Dacey Urges Liberals To Lift Their Self Imposed Gag Order And Defend A Renewed Secularism Based On The Objective Moral Value Of ConscienceDacey Compares Conscience To The Press In An Open Society It Is Protected From Coercion And Control, Not Because It Is Private, But Because It Has A Vital Role In The Public Sphere It Is Free, But Not Liberated From Shared Standards Of Truth And Right It Must Come Before Any And All Faiths, For It Is What Tells Us Whether Or Not To Believe In This Way, Conscience Supplies A Shared Vocabulary For Meaningful Dialogue In A Diverse Society, And An Ethical Lingua Franca In Which To Address The World There are a number of intelligent and thoughtful people in the western world who state as a matter fact, that our laws are grounded in the Judeo Christian tradition President Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope , Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo Christian tradition The suggestion in most such statements is that the basis of the underlying morality and justness of our laws is its Judeo Christian origins Austin Dacey does a fine job of arguing instead that our law are just and moral despite the Judeo Christian traditions Women s rights, abolitionism, tolerance of minority religions are only three of many movements that have their origins in secular thought In The Secular Conscience , the author argues that the origin of the whole set up of a state apparatus that protects individual rights is to secure their well being and actually prevent the interference of Judeo Christian religiosity in our private lives.The book was a slow read, with a number of very dense and re readable paragraphs all the reason to put this in the category of a must read for your run of the mill secular athiests out there I am sorry my only reading recommendation for all you people overflowing with religiosity is The Bible The bonus for me was that I was led to another interesting book in the copious references and bibliography listed in the book Now if I only had time. I appreciate that Darcy is neither a dogmatic naturalist nor a credulous mystic. Lots of good thoughts in the book, plenty to get you thinking Wasn t always impressed with the flow of the writing, and the last few chapters just felt like previous essays he d written and tacked on Overall good I like this guy I was listening to this interview with him Please keep writing Mr Dacey This was a must read for me and picqued my interest in the intersection of religion and politics. This book is pretty heavy in its philosophy for a general readership, but worth the slog Dacey argues that the problem with modern secular liberalism stems from what he calls the Liberty Fallacy that because matters of conscience are matters of individual Liberty, they re also not open to question or criticism This fallacy results in ethical waffling and a reluctance to criticize ideas from other cultures.By contrast, Dacey argues that religious belief is private, but conscience must be open and up to debate He weaves a long and interesting discussion of the issue, exploring the way that open societies have fostered respect for human beings and a separation of church and state, and that closed societies often violate those two elements He also suggests that regardless of personal reasons, public debate ought to function from a consequentialist perspective, namely that discussions about ethics and morals should focus on the human impact of those decisions He argues for an ethics of the golden rule.Two interesting things emerge at the end of the book.The second to last chapter is a warning call to Europe, particularly, about fundamentalist Islam Dacey argues that in refusing to debate conscience decisions made due to religious reasons, secular liberals are giving away their culture He suggests that fundamentalist religious countries are railing against secularism, and Europe doesn t get it The secular, open society has met its antithesis It comes in many forms Salafist jihad, clerical totalitarianism, the rule of sharia law What unites them is the willing sacrifice of freedom and human rights before a sacred order and their dependence on Islam for their existence And yet there are millions of secular liberal Muslims, and potential alternative interpretations of the faith abound One would think that secular liberals would be at the center of this struggle Instead, reluctant to impose their values on others, fearful of the taint of American imperialism, most are submerged into silence The result Public discussion of Islam tends to veer between chauvinistic denunciations by conservative Christians and useless overgeneralizations by politicians Words are liberals first weapon of choice Unfortunately, they now find themselves facing something they ve sworn they not to talk about religion If it is to rise to the historical moment and engage with both faces of Islam, secular liberalism needs a new self understanding 185 And then, in Chapter 11, he cites Open Source as a key model for modern knowledge generation Ha The traditional model of conscience is a mirror of revelation Not a voice from an angel in a cave or a burning bush, but a revelation from within, a still, small voice But from where In the picture of conscience developed in this book, the model is not a revelation but a network The network of open source ethics is a public, collaborative and critical enterprise that builds up a storehouse of shareable answers to challenges faced by a community The sound of conscience is the clamor of conversation, not the eerie whisper of revelation 202 And finally If secular liberalism is to continue to stand for reason and freedom, the separation of religion and state, personal autonomy, equality, toleration, and self criticism, secular liberals must stand up for these values in public debate This means returning conscience to its proper place at the heart of secular liberalism Matters of conscience including religion and values are open Like the sciences and open source methods, they are fit subjects of public discussion, they are guided by shared, objective, evaluative standards, and they are revisable in light of future experience The point of open, secular society is not to privatize or bracket questions of conscience, but to pursue them in conversation with others Like a free press, conscience is freed from coercion so that it may perform a vital public function reasoning together about questions of meaning, identity, and value 209 210.I give this four out of five stars because it s pretty dense, and might be a slog for the casual reader. I m giving this book a 3 as an average score some parts are pretty good and worth reading ex, the chapter original virtue , and others are not.
Austin Dacey is a philosopher who writes on the intersection of science, religion, and ethics.He serves as a respresentative to the United Nations for the Center for Inquiry, a think tank concerned with the secular, scientific outlook He is also on the editorial staff of Skeptical Inquirer and Free Inquiry magazines His writings have appeared in numerous publications including the New York Time
- 269 pages
- Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life
- Austin Dacey
- 04 October 2019 Austin Dacey