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Thomas J. Coleman III, Kenan Sevinç, Ralph W. Hood Jr. and Jonathan Jong


In accordance with Terror Management Theory research, secular beliefs can serve an important role for mitigating existential concerns by providing atheists with a method to attain personal meaning and bolster self-esteem. Although much research has suggested that religious beliefs are powerful defense mechanisms, these effects are limited or reveal more nuanced effects when attempting to explain atheists’ (non)belief structures. The possibility of nonbelief that provides meaning in the “here and now” is reinforced by the importance placed on scientific discovery, education, and social activism by many atheists. Thus, these values and ideologies can, and do, allow for empirically testable claims within a Terror Management framework. Although religious individuals can and largely do use religion as a defense strategy against existential concerns, purely secular ideologies are more effective for atheists providing evidence for a hierarchical approach and individual differences within worldview defenses. Evidence for and implications of these arguments are discussed.

After Darwin

Morality in a Secular World

Jeff O’Connell and Michael Ruse


In the second half of the nineteenth century, many people lost their faith in the Christian God. Nevertheless, they were eager to show that this move towards a secular world picture did not mean the end of morality and that it could continue as much before. In a Darwinian age this was not possible and the Christian cherishing of the virtue of meekness was replaced by a moral respect for vigor and effort directed both towards self-realization and to the well-being of society. We compare the British moves to those promoted by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. There are significant similarities but also differences that reflect the British industrialized notion of progress versus the German idealistic notion of progress.

Élise Rouméas


This paper applies Laborde’s theory of the justice of exemptions to what has become a relatively uncontroversial case, the exemption to military service. It assesses how the exemption test designed by Laborde can guide decision-making relative to a specific historical case, focusing on the French example. The exercise sheds light on how contextual considerations—the legal status quo, the geopolitical context, the number of objectors—decisively influence our normative reasoning about the justifiability of exemptions.

Diluted Liberalisms and Emaciated Neutralities

Reaggregating Alternative Disaggregations

Michael Freeden


Laborde’s Liberalism’s Religion focuses on a philosophical understanding of liberalism infused with the constitutional and legal characteristics of the USA. It cannot, however, contain other weighty patterns of liberal thinking evident in actual and commonly prevalent thought-practices, irreducible to freedom and equality alone. The free development of individuality is also fundamental to a humanist liberal version, and it now entails the right of religious believers to protection from psychological and emotional harm in order to secure their flourishing. Emotional intensity, group identity and the power of religious rhetoric are factors to be considered both in regulating and protecting religious practices and discourse in a liberal society. I conclude with doubts on the viability of the liberal precept of neutrality.

Jonathan Fox


This study examines government religion policy in 26 Western democracies between 1990 and 2014 using the Religion and State round 3 (RAS3) dataset to determine whether these policies can be considered secular. While many assume that the West and its governments are secular and becoming more secular, the results contradict this assumption. All Western governments support religion in some manner, including financial support. All but Canada restrict the religious practices and/or religious institutions of religious minorities. All but Andorra and Italy restrict or regulate the majority religion. In addition religious both governmental and societal discrimination against religious minorities increased significantly between 1990 and 2014. All of this indicates religion remains a prominent factor in politics and society in the West.

Jewish Atheists in Foxholes?

Existential Beliefs and How War Feels

Stacey Gutkowski


War and other forms of collective political violence raise existential questions for those touched by them. Recent advances in the study of ‘atheism in foxholes’ have been hitherto overlooked in the sociology of war. But they can further illuminate the relationship between war and existential questions. Bringing these literatures into conversation for the first time, this article analyses a sample of young, secular Jewish-Israelis (hilonim) interviewed in the aftermath of the 2014 Israel-Gaza War. It shows how speakers borrowed from both Jewish and Western secular formations to answer existential questions and ‘manage luck.’ Contributing to the theorization of war as social practice through a case study of ‘foxhole atheism’, the article also invites us to think of war as having a ‘secular’ ontology.

Justice in Exemptions

Integrity beyond Obligation?

Stuart White


When (if ever) does justice require that individuals have exemptions from general laws on grounds relating to religion? In Liberalism’s Religion, Cécile Laborde argues that the focus ought not to be ‘religion’ but ‘integrity’, an interest shared by religious and non-religious people. Integrity-protecting commitments (IPC s) include commitments expressive of the individual’s sense of what they are obligated to do (‘obligation-IPC s’) and commitments that, while not a matter of obligation, are nevertheless crucial to the individual’s identity (‘identity-IPC s’). Laborde argues that justice permits and requires exemptions from general laws so as to secure these commitments and, thereby, the individual’s underlying interest in integrity. This paper considers whether there is a class of integrity-related commitments which Laborde's approach fails to accommodate - a class of commitments related to ideals of ‘self-transcendence’.

Questioning the Presence of the Past

How Genuine Is the Contemporary Revival of Antique Horizons of Existential Meaning?

Thomas Kriza


This paper questions the contemporary turn towards horizons of existential meaning going back to antiquity especially in the shape of a turn to religion by pointing to crucial differences between antique conceptions of thought and their modern revivals. Pierre Hadot and Michel Foucault interpret antique thought as spiritual exercises to perfect human existence, exposing an inherent existential relevance and connection to a peculiar conception of truth. I argue that because of these ties to a truth claim deeply alien to the modern scientific world-view, antique horizons of existential meaning cannot be revived within modern frames of thought. Their contemporary presence is more likely the expression of the deeply ambivalent modern relationship to premodern horizons of existential meaning, rather than a genuine revival.

Cécile Laborde