Harvard Prof. Alan Dershowitz on Secularism

October 21, 2011

Below is a fascinating lecture about secularism by Professor Alan Dershowitz. 

His talk was given during a 2007 conference on "Secular Society and its Enemies" in New York City, organized by the Center for Inquiry.

Some highlights to watch for:

minutes 5-7 -- Dershowitz doesn't equate secularism with civic condemnation or state persecution of religion, which would be counter-productive to secularism.

minutes 8-10 -- Dershowitz recounts how the Founders composed a godless Constitution.

minutes 18-22 -- Dershowitz describes how the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli declared that the U.S. is not founded on religion. Dershowitz calls this historic event the result of encountering "Islamic terrorism" in the form of the Barbary Pirates.

minutes 25-27 -- Dershowitz on the crucial Constitutional clause forbidding a religious test for office -- it is "tragic" that a secularist couldn't be elected Preisdent nowadays.

minutes 31-33 -- Dershowitz says that secular people must constantly challenge religion in politics and defend the Constitution with a mass movement. He warns: don't trust the Courts, since Courts change over time.

minutes 44-46 -- Dershowitz urges mutual toleration between religious and secular people, rather than an open cultural war.