Sacred and Secular

Responses to Life in a Finite World

By Donald A. Crosby

Subjects: Religion, Theology, Philosophy Of Religion, Sociology Of Religion, Metaphysics
Hardcover : 9781438486598, 190 pages, January 2022
Paperback : 9781438486604, 190 pages, July 2022

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Table of contents


1. Finite Earthly Time
Undesirability of Timeless Life
Illusion of Ultimate Timeless Existence
Hägglund's Contrast of Religious and Secular Perspectives
Problems with the Idea of an Everlasting Afterlife

2. Fallible Human Knowledge
Fallibility of Human Claims to Truth
Unknowability of Future Beliefs
Dangers of Claims to Infallible Religious Beliefs
Inevitable and Desirable Religious Diversity

3. Science, Secularity, and Religion
Religion's Indebtedness to the Sciences
Limitations of the Sciences
Two Conceptions of Science

4. Ambiguities of Nature
Inanimate Nature
Nonhuman Animate Nature
The Human Side of Nature
Religious Affirmation of Nature

5. An Urgent Common Cause
A Monotheistic Response
A Buddhist Response
Scientific Responses
Prudential Responses
Moral Responses
Aesthetic Responses

6. Characterizing Religion
Tillich on the Narrower and Larger Concepts of Religion
Schilbrack's Analysis of Definitions of Religion
Religion and Ontology

7. Reconciling the Sacred with the Secular
Religious and Secular Views of Reality
Earlier Meanings of the Term Secular
Concept of the Secular State
Need for Religious and Secular Dialogue
The Virtue of Humility

8. Western Theism and Ontological Sacredness
From Radical Transcendence to Radical Immanence: Diana Bass's Journey of Faith
The Sacredness of Nature Without God: Chet Raymo's Religious Naturalism
Theism, Naturalism, and the Sacred


Works Cited

Explores distinctions between the sacred and the secular in a variety of religious traditions, and proposes ways in which their relationship can be mutually beneficial.


The sacred and the secular—or religion and secularity—differ from one another in many ways, but they must also frequently interact with and can instruct and benefit one another in today's world. This is especially so when neither is reduced to an uninformed distortion or stereotype by the other. Careful analysis of their relationships is needed. Such analysis is especially important in the contemporary world, where the two are being challenged, reshaped, and reformed by the sheer number of changing religious and secular perspectives—all of this taking place within the ferment of an increasingly global society. This book explores past and present ways of distinguishing the two with which Donald A. Crosby either takes issue with or finds to be congenial. It also proposes ways in which the two are not only meaningfully distinguished from one another, but also where their mutually beneficial relationships can be highlighted. A particular conception of the nature of religious faith is compared and contrasted with some influential types of secular faith.

Donald A. Crosby is Professor of Philosophy Emeritus, Colorado State University. He is the author of many books, including Partial Truths and Our Common Future: A Perspectival Theory of Truth and Value and More Than Discourse: Symbolic Expressions of Naturalistic Faith, both published by SUNY Press.


"This book is invaluable for its clear and compelling discussions of religion and science, religion in a pluralistic politics, and the problem of natural evil. Crosby ably develops a religious naturalist perspective while showing that a variety of religious views have much to contribute to these demanding issues of our time. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for anyone concerned about the religious dimensions of today’s challenges, whether a first year college student or an advanced scholar." — Mary Doak, author of A Prophetic Public Church: Witness to Hope Amid the Global Challenges of the 21st Century