"This provocative and timely book challenges Americans to rethink what it means to take democracy and religious freedom seriously in public education. Emile Lester takes the reader beyond culture war conflicts rooted in religious divisions and offers bold, new solutions for addressing our differences with fairness and robust toleration. Instead of battlegrounds, he argues, public schools can and should be places that include all voices in ways that prepare citizens to engage one another with civility and respect. Teaching about Religions is essential reading for all who care about the future of public schools---and the health of American democracy."
"More than simply a synthesis of existing scholarship, [this book is] an original contribution to the field. [The] major themes are timely, and this book might well contribute to public discussion of important issues in our culture wars."
"Arriving in the wake of a bitter battle over the place of Islam in America and in the midst of calls for greater understanding and civility, Emile Lester's new book is a timely contribution to the debate about the best ways to teach about religion in our nation's public schools. A pioneering researcher in this field, Lester offers thoughtful critiques of existing proposals as well as fresh ideas. His recommendations reflect painstaking efforts to understand the concerns of groups (most notably, conservative Christians) to which he does not belong, and a firm grasp of the difference between fostering understanding of other faiths and pressing for acceptance of them. Lester's prescriptions, always informed and fair-minded and sometimes provocative, should drive the debate forward in productive ways."
Frequent news stories about the debates waged between secularists and religious conservatives have convinced most Americans that public schools must choose between promoting respect for religious minorities and respecting the interests of conservative Christians. As a result, public schools fail to teach students about the meaning and value of protecting religious liberty and consequently perpetuate mistrust across the cultural divide, further empower extremists, and obscure the fact that most Americans of all religious backgrounds share a commitment to basic democratic principles.
In response, the public schools in the religiously diverse and divided community of Modesto, California, have introduced a widely acclaimed required world religions course. Drawing on groundbreaking research on the creation of and response to the Modesto course as well as on political philosophy, Emile Lester advocates a civic approach to teaching about religion in public schools that at once emphasizes respect for all views about religion and provides a special recognition of conservative Christian beliefs.
Thepresentwork is arevisedand enlarged English versionofa book originally writtenin Spanish and published in late 1996, La rejlexion de DavidHume en lorno a /a religion. SinceDavidHume is arguablynot only the most important philosopherwhohaseverwrittenintheEnglishlanguage, butthemoststudiedand influential, itisonlynaturalthatsoonerthanlaterIwouldfeelthe urgencyto bring totheattentionofamuchwiderpublicaworkwhoseoutlook is, I think, signifi cantlydifferentfrom that ofother books which deal with the Scottish thinker's worksonreligionandnaturaltheology.Thisdesirewassostrongastoallowmeto overcome the all-too-natural fear that my wavering and uncertain command of English wouldmakethe few valuableinsights theworkmight containappearun clear, andmyphilosophicalerrors, evenmoreastonishing. This book is addressednot only to scholarswhomay beinterested in modem philosophy in generalorHume'sphilosophyofreligion in particular, but also to themoreextensivecompassofreaderseitherintriguedortroubledby religion and themyriadofissuesandproblemsitposes, whichare, as it were, the primematter forphilosophicalanalysisandtheorizing.Inspiteofitsphilosophicaland linguistic limitations, forwhichIamentirelyresponsible, Iferventlyhopethatthisworkmay befoundtocontainsomethingofthatelusivetruthafterwhichHumestrove, andto whichheremainedconstantto theend, particularlyatatime whenthe priceto be paidforthepublicationofcontroversialphilosophicalandreligious views wascon siderablyhigherthanthatofbecominganeasytargetforuniversalridicule. Thecompletionofthisworkhasbeenmadepossible principally by asabbatical leavethattheUniversityofPuertoRico grantedme fortheyear 1999. This leave gavemethenecessarytimeto readandstudy thepertinentliterature, aswell asto writemostoftheEnglish manuscript.Italsoallowedmeto visit Edinburgh and spendmostofJuly andAugust 1999 attheNationalLibraryofScotlandand the EdinburghUniversityLibrary.Although Ihaveincorporatedinto thepresentwork onlyasmallpartofmyresearchatthose libraries, ifthis bookshows agreaterap preciation of the immediate social and religious context of Hume's thought (particularly of Calvinistic theology and the Scottish Enlightement) than its Spanish predecessor, it is in no small measure due to the books, articles, and xi xii Preface manuscritsIwasabletoconsultatthe time. Inthis respect, Iwouldliketo thank Professor Peter Jones, Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the HumanitiesattheUniversityofEdinburgh, who was very instrumental in making myvisittoEdinburghareality, andgenerouslyputthefacilitiesoftheInstitute at mydisposal. Manythoughts andlinesofargumentcontained in this bookdatebackto my doctoraldissertation, andsomeearlierversionsofanumberofchaptersorsections ofchaptershavebeenpublished in differentphilosophyjournalsor anthologies. I oftheminthebibliographyundermy name. But sincemy previousworks listall onthe subjecthavebeenrevisedandmodifiedsomanytimes in the lightofnew fmdingsortomeetactualorpossiblecriticism, Ican saythatthey havebeeneffec tivelysupersededbythepresentwriting.
Topics in this broad study of the Celtic religion include the gods of Gaul, the Irish mythological cycle, gods and men, nature, plant and animal worship, cosmogony, sacrifice, festivals, the Druids, magic, and rebirth.
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