Recent times have seen a lively debate over secularism. Is it a religion? Can it be religious? Secularism is nothing new in America. Lecturing at Yale in 1931, the Cornell University historian and literary craftsman Carl Becker painted a stark picture of the prevailing "climate of opinion" in his own day. He spoke as a modem and a relativist. Later that year, in fact, he delivered his famous presidential address to the American Historical Association, "Everyman His Own Historian." But at Yale Becker went on to propose a breathtaking thesis about the period which many people consider the first flower of modem, secular times: the Enlightenment. He asserted that "the Philosophes demolished the Heavenly City of St. Augustine only to rebuild it with more up-to-date materials." They had their own faith-commitment.



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