Understanding the (Surprisingly Religious) History of American Secularism
Monday, September 26, 2016 • 3:00pm - 4:30pm
Jacques Berlinerblau a Professor and Director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He holds separate doctorates in ancient Near Eastern Languages and Literatures (New York University, 1991), and in Sociology (The New School for Social Research, 1999).
"Secularism" is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the entire American political lexicon. For some, it is a synonym for “atheism.” For others, it is a code word for “tyranny.” And for still others, secularism is a political principle centered around separation of church and state. In this lecture, we will trace the complex evolution of the American secular idea, focusing first on its pre-modern roots in Christian political philosophy. Once we understand the intriguingly religious origin of American secularism, we can better appreciate the many ways in which we argue about it today.
Berlinerblau has published on a wide variety of issues ranging from the composition of the Hebrew Bible, to the sociology of heresy, to modern Jewish intellectuals, to African-American and Jewish-American relations. His articles on these and other subjects have appeared in Biblica, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Semeia, Biblical Interpretation, Journal of Northwest Semitic Languages, Hebrew Studies, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and History of Religions.
He has published five books, the most recent being How to Be Secular: A Call to Arms for Religious Freedom. His previous works include Thumpin' It: The Use and Abuse of the Bible in Today's Presidential Politics, Heresy in the University: The Black Athena Controversy and the Responsibility of American Intellectuals, and The Secular Bible: Why Nonbelievers Must Take Religion Seriously.