Not all readers will agree with Marty’s insightful reflections on the relationship between politics and religion, but his...



In a thoughtful antidote to the arguments that usually dominate discussions of politics and religion, Marty (The One and Many, 1997, etc.) here invites us instead to enter into a conversation about the relationship between the two.

Enacted in the wake of centuries of religious controversy and oppression, the Constitution mandates separation of church and state and assures free exercise of religion. The tension between the two principles spawns endless political controversy and litigation, however, and private faith continually spills over into the public realm, often affecting elections and driving public debate on such issues as abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment. But should religion have any place in our public life? Marty says yes: indeed, he finds it “hard to think of any descriptions, definitions, or citations or profound elements in politics and government that are not somehow religious.” Recognizing the controversial nature of any discussion of politics and religion, and welcoming anticipated disagreement, Marty makes several claims about public religion. He acknowledges that public religion presents dangers to the civil order (ranging from intolerance to religiously motivated violence), but points to the public good done by such religious forces as the Salvation Army and Martin Luther King as evidence of the benign influence of religion on public life. Marty also claims that individuals energized by an awareness of possibilities based on religious beliefs can provide hope for improving the republic, and he observes that religious people have exercised an effective political voice through both traditional institutions and religious special-interest groups and voluntary organizations.

Not all readers will agree with Marty’s insightful reflections on the relationship between politics and religion, but his essay is a useful starting point for anyone interested in the role of religion in America’s public life.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7879-5031-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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

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