It is always a bit nerve racking when friends write books. I mean, what if you don’t like it? Or worse it is very poorly done?
Well, luckily I dodged that particular bullet with The End of Secularism by Hunter Baker. I have never met the good Dr. Baker (not to confuse you with his wife who is an actual doctor) but have become friends with him over the years through our participation at Red State and other conservative venues.
So I was quite happy to find that Hunter’s book was enjoyable and very well done (I expect nothing less from Crossway). It is in fact a book I am likely to recommend to friends and family.
Baker’s slim volume is an intelligent brief against the popular “modern” conception of secularism that seeks to keep the religious out of public life. Readable, and useful, for non-academics but interesting for those with a greater depth on the subject as well.
He uses straightforward arguments and language to lay out both the history and the debates surrounding the issue before making his own – in my opinion persuasive – case against what might be called hard line secularism.
Here is a section of the publisher’s blurb that sums it up nicely:
The result of Baker’s analysis is The End of Secularism. He reveals that secularism fails as an instrument designed to create superior social harmony and political rationality to that which is available with theistic alternatives. Baker also demonstrates that secularism is far from the best or only way to enjoy modernity’s fruits of religious liberty, free speech, and democracy. The End of Secularism declares the demise of secularism as a useful social construct and upholds the value of a public square that welcomes all comers, religious and otherwise, into the discussion. The message of The End of Secularism is that the marketplace of ideas depends on open and honest discussion rather than on religious content or the lack thereof.
Two things that are laudatory about this book:
- It is written in an easy and enjoyable style. More academics should learn to write this clearly and succinctly. It is neither “dumbed down” nor unnecessarily verbose. Understandable for the average reader but deep enough for the academic.
- It is a great length. Too many books seem padded or are overly dense. Baker introduces the subject well, provides the background, makes his argument and wraps it up. Again, more authors should strive for this sort of presentation. Not everyone has the time or energy to dive into long complex tomes, but we don’t need fluff either. This length is perfect for me anyways.
If you are interested in the subject of secularism or the interaction of faith in the public square you will want to read this book. It can serve as a useful introduction or an interesting argument/debate kickoff for those with more of a background in the subject.