Our Non-Christian Nation (inbunden)
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Stanford University Press
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Our Non-Christian Nation (inbunden)

Our Non-Christian Nation

How Atheists, Satanists, Pagans, and Others Are Demanding Their Rightful Place in Public Life

Inbunden Engelska, 2019-06-11
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Less and less Christian demographically, America is now home to an ever-larger number of people who say they identify with no religion at all. These non-Christians have increasingly been demanding their full participation in public life, bringing their arguments all the way to the Supreme Court. The law is on their side, but that doesn't mean that their attempts are not met with suspicion or outright hostility. In Our Non-Christian Nation, Jay Wexler travels the country to engage the non-Christians who have called on us to maintain our ideals of inclusivity and diversity. With his characteristic sympathy and humor, he introduces us to the Summum and their Seven Aphorisms, a Wiccan priestess who would deck her City Hall with a pagan holiday wreath, and other determined champions of free religious expression. As Wexler reminds us, anyone who cares about pluralism, equality, and fairness should support a public square filled with a variety of religious and nonreligious voices. The stakes are nothing short of long-term social peace.
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"[T]his book was written for the general public, which often struggles to understand the jurisprudence surrounding religious freedom. Even professors of religious studies often need help in this area....Wexler's writing makes this book ideal for getting undergraduates interested in these issues."--Joseph Laycock, Journal of the American Academy of Religion "What would it mean to take seriously the idea of religious diversity in the public sphere? Jay Wexler tells the stories of Wiccans, Muslims, and other religious and non-religious groups outside the mainstream who show what existing constitutional doctrine means in practice. The picture he paints provokes us to think differently about what that doctrine should be." -- Mark Tushnet * Harvard Law School * "Timely, trenchant, and tremendously engaging, Our Non-Christian Nation is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the contemporary battles over religion's role in our national politics and culture." -- Phil Zuckerman * author of <i>Living the Secular Life</i> * "A fascinating read, and a wonderfully hopeful one...For anyone who feels marginalized as a pagan, nonbeliever, or just not a Christian, it's a manifesto for effective and often hilarious resistance."--Houston Chronicle "Wexler...has made a timely, at times funny, and compelling piece of reportage looking at a variety of religious groups, as well as a strong argument for the importance of a pluralistic society."--Boston Globe "In this brilliantly erudite and hugely entertaining romp through recent religious and legal history, Jay Wexler shows why, as our country becomes more religiously diverse, non-Christians need to get their voices heard and Christians need to help repair the wall between church and state. A marvelous read." -- Michael Shermer * <i>Skeptic</i> magazine * "A zesty, opinionated assessment of how non-Christians should actually behave....With curiosity and openness, Wexler performs the action that he advocates: that is, making heard a 'cacophony' of voices in public life so that different viewpoints get brought to the fore."--Dan Friedman, Los Angeles Review of Books "In this fine book, Jay Wexler urges humanists, atheists, Satanists, and members of minority religious traditions to take advantage of a fascinating new phenomenon: the opening of public space to a variety of beliefs and institutions. His compelling account of 'belief' in public life will be of interest to the deeply religious as well as those who cringe at the very thought of religion. I highly recommend it." -- Anthony B. Pinn * author of <i>Humanism: Essays on Race, Religion and Cultural Production</i> *

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A Professor at Boston University School of Law, Jay Wexler is also a humorist, short story writer, and novelist. A one-time clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former lawyer at the US Department of Justice, he has written for National Geographic, The Boston Globe, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Salon, and many other outlets. His books include When God Isn't Green (2016) and Holy Hullabaloos.


Contents and AbstractsIntroduction chapter abstractThis chapter presents the main themes, issues, and arguments of the book. After an opening vignette describing the efforts of the Satanic Temple to erect a veterans monument in a small Minnesota town, the chapter introduces the First Amendment, particularly the Establishment Clause and the concept of separation of church and state as set out by the Supreme Court. It traces demographic changes in the country's religious makeup that have rendered the nation far less Christian and more secular than at previous times in its history. After a discussion of the issue of defining religion, the chapter sets forth the book's primary argument-namely, that a religiously diverse public square is preferable to one dominated by Christianity. One: Mummies, Monuments, and Monotheism: Religious Displays as Government Speech chapter abstractThis chapter discusses the constitutional doctrine of government speech under the First Amendment as it relates to the erection of religious monuments on public property. It does so, first, by describing and evaluating cases concerning the constitutionality of various Ten Commandments monuments under the Establishment Clause, and particularly the case of Van Orden v. Perry, which upheld such a monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol. The chapter goes on to discuss the ultimately unsuccessful efforts of the small religious group known as the Summum, located in Salt Lake City, to have a Utah town erect a monument to its "Seven Aphorisms" in a park next to the community's Ten Commandments monument. The author's trip to visit the Summum and understand its mummification practices is described. Two: Pagans, Pentacles, and Pluralism: Religious Displays in the Public Forum chapter abstractThis chapter contrasts the government speech doctrine discussed in chapter 1 with the more minority-friendly First Amendment free speech doctrine known as the designated public forum. Under this doctrine, if the government designates a part of its property for private speech, including religious speech, it may not exclude speech on the basis of the viewpoint that is expressed by that speech. After explaining the doctrine, the chapter describes the successful efforts of Pagans and Wiccans, under the leadership of Wiccan priestess Selena Fox and through litigation brought by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, to get the Department of Veterans Affairs to allow Pagans buried in national cemeteries to have pentacles displayed on their headstones. The chapter also describes the author's visit to Fox's Circle Sanctuary in Wisconsin to participate in a Veterans Day event. Three: Secularism, Statehouses, and School Boards: Prayers and Invocations before Government Bodies chapter abstractThis chapter investigates the historical practice of prayer-giving before legislatures and other government bodies, as well as the Supreme Court's treatment of the practice in, most recently, the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway. Under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the Court has held that legislative prayer and other religious invocations before government bodies are constitutional so long as the government has a policy of antidiscrimination-i.e., it will not discriminate on the basis of religion when inviting or allowing people to pray before meetings. The chapter investigates specifically the invocation given before the monthly town meeting of the Town of Greece (New York) by an Atheist who had previously sued the town unsuccessfully. The author's trip to witness this invocation is described. Four: The Satanic Temple: Taking It to a Whole 'Nother Level chapter abstractThis chapter takes an in-depth look at the key player in the phenomenon described in the book, namely the Satanic Temple. The chapter provides a brief history of Satanism, including a discussion of the Romantic Satanists, a literary movement in the eighteenth century that was the fi