Defending the secular from its secularist critics Albert Camus, Saint Augustine, and the new atheism

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1 Scopus citations

Abstract

There is an intellectual movement afoot - known commonly as "new atheism" - that has undertaken a concerted effort to hijack the secular. This project involves arming secularists who wish to keep religion out of political deliberation, if not public life altogether. There are several moral and intellectual failings of this approach that emanate from the distorted conception of "the secular" that the new atheists presume. While considerable scholarly discussion in the past decade has been paid to problems of secularity, secularism, and the secular more broadly, this scholarship has largely overlooked the ideas and insights of the Nobel Prize-winning writer and philosopher Albert Camus, the centennial of whose birth was celebrated in 2013. An unbeliever distinctive for his humility, Camus at times formed common cause with religious figures and, at other times, engaged them critically. He exemplifies an oft-forgotten conception of the secular first articulated by the church father Saint Augustine. Interestingly, Camus knew and admired Augustine's work even if he didn't share his faith. What they did share - a common upbringing in North Africa, a deep intellectual preoccupation with the problem of evil, and a concern to distinguish the affairs of this world from all forms of political absolutism or heavenly utopianism - formed the basis for a vision of the secular that is much in need in our own polarizing times.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)50-74
Number of pages25
JournalSoundings
Volume97
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 10 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science

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