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Book Review: Sacred to Secular: 4.8.15

Book Review:  On Line Opinion.  4th August, 2015
Richard Britain:

‘Sacred to Secular: why a corrupted Christianity demands a Secular solution’

One can often sense a feeling of apathy among the non-religious — from mere skeptics to hard-line atheists.  It’s a state of lethargy that can possess those who assume Australia will evolve naturally to a ‘secular reality’ simply by osmosis — that concerted action is unnecessary as religious dominance will eventually wither without direct intervention.

That’s why we need new books to be written that remind us, and in clear detail, why it’s essential to reinvigorate the debate on what needs to be done, and how.  And this is the key ingredient — how?

One such book is the newly published work by Brian Morris, ‘Sacred to Secular: why a corrupted Christianity demands a Secular solution’.  It’s a timely call to action, based on his expertise in journalism and a 30-year interest in secular politics.

Morris makes the point that, “too many good books have identified the myriad problems of religion but very few address the critical issue of what we then need to do about it.”  He also feels that many secular and atheist titles are too academic and that a more journalistic style is required to make it accessible to the broader public.

Much of the current focus is on Islam and the excesses of Islamic State, together with the climate of fear generated by a federal government eager to divert attention away from domestic economic problems.

But this book takes the line that it is the covert machinations of Christianity that present the greatest unreported threat — in what Morris describes as “predatory evangelism and corporate Christianity”; primarily in the areas of education, commerce, politics and the contemporary socio-political agenda.

The narrative begins by touching briefly on the development of Christianity, how religion remains embedded in society, and the harm it continues to inflict.  There are detailed specifics on the rise of evangelism in schools and the arrival in Canberra of the ‘Prayer Breakfast’ phenomenon.

The concept reflects an American model started by a sect known as ‘The Family’ and whose philosophies underpin the Tea Party — the  right wing Christian movement that has strangled the political process of Congress.  Canberra may well be viewed in a similar light.

Progressing through some interesting observations of the ‘God’ question, in chapters 5 and 6, the author follows up with a chapter that puts religion into perspective, with the current findings of neuroscience and the relationship between brain chemistry and religion.  Such research also discounts the religious belief in a human soul.

Another section investigates the excessive financial and political benefits that accrue to Christianity from the artificially high Census figure — putting Christian affiliation at an inflated 61.1%, in the 2011 Census.  The chapter reflects on necessary changes foreshadowed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the 2016 Census, and the campaign that will be required to challenge any attempt by the federal government to reverse the ABS recommendations for change.

Throughout the narrative Sacred to Secular points to the social benefits already achieved by the successful secular countries of Scandinavia, with specific details of why they consistently score at the top of every Human Development Index .  Being more than 80% secular, the Scandinavians tick every box from a nationally high IQ to the lowest crime rates, all by comparison with nations of high religiosity.

But in Chapter 9 Morris brings to a head a set of 25 secular issues — by no means an exhaustive list — and suggests a variety of options for individual or group action.  He argues the case for moving Australia toward the clear examples set by countries which include Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

The book’s layout and style makes it easy to read and Morris perhaps succeeds in his aim of making the text relevant for a broad range of readers.  It’s easily accessible to those who are newcomers to secular politics — it’s written in an informative style that’s not overbearing or couched in academic terminology.

But the book will also be relevant to hard-nosed atheists.  Not only is it a good overall ‘refresher’, it provides interesting insights and covers new ground.  But the crunch, “hopefully” says Brian Morris, is to overcome apathy and instill some motivation with ‘Strategies for Action’, in the first section of the Appendix.

The book has gained credible reviews from within the Richard Dawkins Foundation, and from leading authors and academics.  A list of purchasing options, together with a full Overview and book excerpts, can be found on the Plain Reason website at  .