spacer
Ransom Fellowship
spacer articles movies music books art faith discernment spacer
 
articles
publications
search
people
links
faq
blank
about
contact
press kit
Ransom Blogs
spacer
spacer
current article  
spacer
spacer
spacer
Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions (Phil Zuckerman, 2014) spacer Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions (Phil Zuckerman, 2014)
BY: Denis Haack
spacer
How to be secular
The purpose that motivated Phil Zuckerman to write Living the Secular Life is elegant in its simplicity. A convinced secularist and a professor of sociology and secular studies (Pitzer College), Zuckerman believes that secularism is badly misunderstood but when understood is commendable and plausible both as a way to see life and as a way of life. And since surveys show that “Nones”—people who hold no religious faith—are a rapidly growing demographic, he believes it is time that both secularists and religious believers understood it better. Living the Secular Life is, in essence, an accessible and practical apologetic for secularism written for ordinary people seeking to find their way in a pluralistic world filled with conflicting truth claims.

“Many people assume,” Zuckerman writes, “that a life lived without religion is not only somewhat void, but intrinsically problematic. After all, how does one deal with death without religion? How does one cope with life’s troubles? Develop morals and ethics? Fine community? Experience a sense of transcendence? These are extremely fair questions (p. 3).” And Zuckerman goes on to address each issue in detail in succeeding chapters, complete with comments and insights from the numerous interviews he has conducted in his research. “What I have learned,” he adds, “and what shall be illustrated throughout the chapters ahead, is that while secular Americans may have nothing to do with religion, this does not mean that they wallow in despair or flail about in hapless oblivion. To the contrary, they live civil, reasonably rational, and admirably meaningful lives predicated upon sound ethical foundations” (p. 6).

Those of us who are not secularists but who want to understand our secular friends need books like this. It is inadequate to only learn about a worldview from someone who does not hold it, especially if it is a worldview with which we need to interact. I can learn a great deal from a Christian who teaches a class on Buddhism, especially if that teacher was at one point a Buddhist. But to really learn about Buddhism, to get inside it, as it were, it’s far better to learn from a serious Buddhist. The same is true of secularism, and since Living the Secular Life is not a technical philosophical study but is, instead, clear, civil and written for a popular audience, it is a great place to begin our learning. Zuckerman is not seeking to be provocative but to be clarifying, to increase understanding of those who live secular lives, and to show that the myths about secularism promulgated by fearful religious pundits are simply untrue.

I would recommend Living the Secular Life for young adults who have been raised in Christian circles. Not only will it help them understand their friends and world, it will allow them to hear a thoughtful presentation of secularism with which to test the reasons for their own faith commitment.

And as you read Living the Secular Life please remember the principles and process of Christian discernment. Find places of agreement before identifying places of disagreement. Be as objective as possible with Zuckerman’s ideas, arguments, reasons, and conclusion. Listen with care before raising ideas of your own. When you don’t know, admit it. And enjoy the process of discernment, because it is a chance to learn, grow, and explore without fear.

*What’s being said?
*What is made attractive? How?
*Where do you agree? Why?
*What would you challenge? Why?
*How should you live out and speak about what you believe in an understandable way in our pluralist world—and before our secular friends and neighbors, especially now that you have a clearer understanding of those who choose a secular life?


image

Questions:
1. What is being said?

2. What is made attractive? How?

3. Where do you agree? Why?

4. What would you challenge? Why? 5. How should you live out and speak about what you believe in an understandable way in our pluralist world—and before our secular friends and neighbors, especially now that you have a clearer understanding of those who choose a secular life?

Source:
Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions by Phil Zuckerman (New York, NY: Penguin Press; 2014) 224 pages + notes + bibliography + index.

spacer
spacer
spacer
about the author
spacer
Denis Haack
Denis is the author of The Rest of Success: What the World Didn’t Tell You About Having It All and has written articles for such journals as Reformation & Revival Journal, Eternity, Covenant, and World. He holds a Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis.
spacer spacer spacer
other articles from this author
spacer
A Cloud of Witnesses (Alister McGrath, 1990)
Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy (Bradley Green, 2010)
Early Christian Thinkers (Paul Foster, 2010)


On vision, hubris and faithfulness

Character v. Personality

spacer
related articles
spacer The immigrant who shaped America

Rumours of Glory: A Memoir (Bruce Cockburn, 2014)

Culture Care (Makoto Fujimura, 2014)

A Storybook Bible for Grownups

When Nigeria is Home

God in the Sink (Margie Haack, 2014)

The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East (Eugene Rogan, 2015)

Fool's Talk (Os Guinness, 2015)

How (Not) to be Secular (James K.A. Smith, 2014)

Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions (Phil Zuckerman, 2014)

Our Only World: Ten Essays (Wendell Berry, 2015)

The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt, 2013)

Subjects With Objects (Jonathan Richter and DKM, 2013)

The Pilgrim’s Regress (C.S. Lewis, 1933)

Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times (Os Guinness, 2014)

Over the Earth I Come (Duane Schultz, 1992)

F.F. Bruce: A Life (Tim Grass, 2011)

Broken Hallelujahs: Why Popular Music Matters to Those Seeking God (Christian Scharen, 2011)

Echoes of a Voice: We are Not Alone (James Sire, 2014)

Visions of Vocation (Steve Garber, 2014)

spacer
spacer spacer spacer bottom
Ransom Fellowship
Ransom Fellowship
spacer This web site is old and creaky. The email function functions poorly when it functions at all. Worse, it all looks old. So we are starting work on building a new site, and hope to have it functioning by fall.

Our vision will not change, nor will our attempt in this little spot of the Internet to invite you to join us in thinking about the things that matter most. Thanks for visiting.

Denis & Margie Haack
Anita Gorder
spacer
spacer
bottom

Home | Articles | Publications | Search | People | Links | FAQ | Donate | About | Contact | Press

All material © 2000-2017 Ransom Fellowship Ministries
Site design by JaM Multimedia