A well-argued book geared toward those with an interest in the intersection of law and religion.

A dispassionate exposition in favor of the separation of church and state.

Noting that the current structure of the Supreme Court is tilted toward an accommodationist view of the First Amendment, which tends to side with conservatives and religious majorities, legal experts Chemerinsky and Gillman take the initiative to offer a differing view. “Our thesis,” they write, “is that the Constitution meant to create, and should be interpreted as creating, a secular republic, meaning that the government has no role in ad­vancing religion and that religious belief and practice should be a pri­vate matter.” The authors begin with an examination of how the framers of the Constitution viewed the relationship between church and state. Despite traditions to the contrary, they write, “the framers resisted strong pressure to declare that the American republic would formally be associated with Christianity. There is no doubt that they intended to create a government that was formally secular.” Though declaring themselves not to be “originalists,” the authors work from the assumption that the founders sought specifically to create a secular government and that such a government has served America best through time. They work systematically, first through the Establishment Clause and then the Free Exercise Clause, explaining the background to each clause and various court cases that have shaped the public understanding of them, before then examining their own separationist views regarding each. Chemerinsky and Gillman end with a counter to the argument that separation of church and state is often a guise for hostility to religion; instead, they write, separation is a means of protecting all religions. Written in what can best be described as a relaxed legal style, the book is largely accessible but will appeal most to attorneys and those intrigued by the Constitution and the Supreme Court.

A well-argued book geared toward those with an interest in the intersection of law and religion.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-19-069973-4

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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