Claremont, Calif. (January 17, 2017)—Pitzer College Professor Phil Zuckerman’s new book, The Oxford Handbook of Secularism, is being touted as the most comprehensive and interdisciplinary volume ever written about secularism. The 792-page Oxford University Press anthology, which Zuckerman co-edited with John R. Shook, gives a 360-degree global view of secularism.
“We have philosophers, anthropologists, political scientists, historians and sociologists who look at every angle of secularism,” Zuckerman said.
This interdisciplinary approach is crucial because secularism defies a single definition, according to Zuckerman, who is a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College. The term’s meaning depends on its context: politically, it means separation of church and state; philosophically, it means skepticism towards religious beliefs; culturally, it means societies becoming less regulated by religion.
“We address all those different branches of secularism in this one volume,” Zuckerman said.
The anthology’s scope is international as well as interdisciplinary. Zuckerman and Shook assembled articles that examine the role of secularism in more than two dozen countries, including France, China, Israel and Turkey. Divided into six parts, the book covers a multitude of interrelated, global issues such as secularism’s relationship to democracy, religious freedom, education, ethics and the natural world.
The Oxford Handbook of Secularism’s 43 contributing scholars are leaders in their given fields. Mark Juergensmeyer, who wrote the chapter titled “The Imagined War between Secularism and Religion,” is an expert on religious violence and author of Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence. Sonja Luehrmann contributed an article about Soviet atheism, the subject of her book Religion in Secular Archives: Soviet Atheism and Historical Knowledge. Tariq Modood, who wrote about “multiculturalizing” secularism in the anthology, is the founding director of the Bristol University Research Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship.
Zuckerman said Oxford University Press’ decision to make secularism one of the 14 subjects covered by its Handbook series, which the publishing house describes as “one of the most prestigious and successful strands of Oxford’s scholarly publishing,” reflects the seriousness with which academia now takes secularism.
In 2011, when Zuckerman established the first secular studies program in the country at Pitzer College, he had to convince people that studying secularity was as valid as studying religion. Since that time, the University of Miami has created the country’s first academic chair for the study of atheism, humanism and secular ethics; at least two academic presses have launched secular studies book series; and an academic review billed as “the world’s first journal dedicated to the investigation of secularism and nonreligion” is now published online.
The Oxford Handbook of Secularism is the fourteenth book Professor Zuckerman has authored or edited. His most recent works are The Nonreligious: Understanding Secular People and Societies (Oxford University Press, 2016), Beyond Religion (Macmillan, 2016) and Living the Secular Life (Penguin Books, 2014), which was named one of the best books of 2014 by Publishers Weekly. Zuckerman is a frequent commentator and contributor to major media outlets and his writings have been translated into six languages. His classes at Pitzer include Secularism, Skepticism, and Irreligion, Sociology through Film and Heroic Deviance. Last year, Zuckerman and Pitzer College were recognized by the American Humanist Association for their national leadership in the field of secular studies.
The Oxford Handbook of Secularism will be published on January 25, 2017, and will be available through the Oxford University Press, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble and other book sellers.