A reasoned, reasonable and consensus-seeking argument that is, of course, in danger of going unheard amid all the shouting.



Can’t we all—fundamentalist and atheist and nonideologist—just get along?

It wouldn’t seem so, writes NYU law professor Feldman (After Jihad, 2003), who argues that the ever-hotter war between the proponents of “values evangelism” on one hand and “legal secularism” on the other “now threatens to destroy a common national vision.” That vision includes belief in the constitutional separation of church and state; and, as Feldman observes, the battle is not strictly about religious belief as such, but about how religious belief plays out in the conduct of politics and the running of government. Separation was, Feldman suggests, the product of a simpler time, when no one opposed the idea of religious liberty and when Protestantism—the religion of 95 percent of Americans at the time of independence—was so divided that no single denomination was likely to seize control of the state; Anglicanism may have threatened for a time to do so in Virginia, but thanks to the liberty-of-conscience clauses of the Constitution—written by dissenters Thomas Jefferson and James Madison—the “national experiment with institutional separation of church and state” was able to take hold. Things are somewhat more complex now that such a large number of religious beliefs, and not just varieties of Protestantism, are current in America. Yet, Feldman suggests, the separation of church and state does not strictly mean that a city hall cannot erect a crèche, nor that a DMV employee cannot wish a motorist a Merry Christmas; the founders, he argues, “did not think that the state needed to be protected from the dangers of religious influence, nor were they especially concerned with keeping religious symbolism out of the public sphere.” Just so, that freedom does not mean that the government should necessarily be beholden to religious sensibilities—as when Sunday mail delivery was abolished, along about 1828, because clerics feared that open post offices would draw people away from church.

A reasoned, reasonable and consensus-seeking argument that is, of course, in danger of going unheard amid all the shouting.

Pub Date: July 6, 2005

ISBN: 0-374-28131-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?



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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet