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The Hidden Challenge to Extremism

By Mike King



The Hidden Challenge to Extremism

By Mike King

An exploration of how spiritual and secular thought collide and combine in today's world, charting a new way forward that combines the best of both worldviews.

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Available as: Paperback

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Print Paperback

ISBN: 9780227172476

Specifications: 234x156mm (9.21x6.14in), 280pp

Published: February 2009


Spirituality in the post-9/11 world is a complex topic. The détente between secular culture and religious faith that characterised the 20th century, the 'mutual ignorance pact', has been shattered. From the rise of Islamic extremism to the American Christian Right to the fiercely anti-religious writings of staunch atheists such as Richard Dawkins, the controversy over what role the spiritual can or should play in our lives, public and private, has never been more widely discussed or hotly contended.

In Postsecularism, Mike King posits that out of this conflict between socially dominant secular thinkers and the 'new defenders of faith' is arising a distinct way of thinking that is neither a return to pre-Enlightenment beliefs nor a continued hegemony of the secular – the postsecular. At once a retention of secular critical attitudes and a return in all seriousness to questions of the spirit, the postsecular provides a framework within which to move beyond the extremism of faithful and atheists alike.

Drawing on contemporary thinkers from across the spiritual spectrum including Dawkins, Antony Flew, Christopher Hitchens, Alister McGrath, Daniel Dennett, Keith Ward, Richard Swinburne and Martin Amis, King carefully constructs a new mode of thought and explores its relevance to everything from physics to the arts, postmodernism, and feminism. What emerges is a thoughtful and persuasive discussion of the route to reconciliation between the combative worlds of the religious and the secular.


Part One: Towards a Postsecular Sensibility
1. Some Establishing Principles
2. Recapitulating the Origins of Secularism

Part Two: Postsecularism and the New Atheism Debate
3. The New Atheists and Extreme Positions
4. The New Defenders of Faith
5. Postsecularism and the New Debate

Part Three: Some Postsecular Contexts
6. Postsecularism and Physics
7. Postsecularism and Consciousness Studies
8. Postsecularism and Transpersonal Psychology
9. Postsecularism and the New Age
10. Postsecularism and Nature
11. Postsecularism and the Arts
12. Postsecularism and Postmodernism
13. Postsecularism and Feminism

Reflections and Conclusions

Dr Mike King is Reader at London Metropolitan University. He serves as Director for the Scientific and Medical Network, a charity devoted to combating scientific materialism, and sits on the Steering Group for the Wrekin Trust Forum, which promotes spiritual learning on all levels within society.

The book provides erudite and wide-ranging fuel to counter the antagonistic arguments that stupefy and subvert nuanced discussion on religion. Network Review
This interesting book throws a light on the debate raging in the west between secularists and those who believe. Indian Journal of Secularism
Mike King's knowledge is impressive, ranging from quantum mechanics to contemporary music, as well as texts arguing for and against religion. He is perhaps at his most original when he applies the Sanskrit terms bhakti, glossed as the devotional spiritual impulse, as opposed to jnani, non-theistic insight, to make comparisons across widely different spiritual traditions, each of which has a mystical virtuosity at its core. Jonathan Benthall, in The Times Literary Supplement, 11 December 2009
Postsecularism engages, importantly, with a contemporary debate on the competing validities of sciences and religion. It provides a well-appraised overview of the dialogue between science and religion, and makes an intriguing argument for furthering a post-secular sensibilty and, in some ways, for recognising cultural difference. A. Ranasinghe, in Millenium: Journal of International Studies, Vol 39, Issue 3