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The Conflict Between Secular and Religious Narratives in the United States

Wittgenstein, Social Construction, and Communication

John Sumser

The Conflict Between Secular and Religious Narratives in the United States uses the theory of social construction and the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein to examine the current divide between religious and secular narratives in the United States. Sumser analyzes how Americans apply religious and secular reasoning to contemporary social problems, and explains the resurgence of religious worldviews and the simultaneous growth of an assertive form of atheism in America. This book is recommended for scholars of communication studies, religious studies, sociology, philosophy, and history. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 184Size: 6 3/8 x 9 1/8
978-1-4985-2208-3 • Hardback • June 2016 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
978-1-4985-2209-0 • eBook • June 2016 • $76.00 • (£49.95)
John Susmer is professor in the Department of Communication Studies at California State University, Stanislaus.
Chapter 1: What is Religion?
Chapter 2: Stories and Sense-Making?
Chapter 3: Myth, Institutions, and the Web of Meaning
Chapter 4: The Idea of Fundamentalism
Chapter 5: The New Atheism
Chapter 6: Religious and Secular Narratives in Public Debate
Conclusion: Narratives and Division
About the Author
Though he ranges widely across the theoretical landscape, John Sumser is lucid and engaging as he deftly pulls his thesis together under the concept of 'narrative.' By demonstrating how the 'culture war' is a conflict between religious and secular narratives that each make meaning in different ways, Sumser brings a fresh light to a subject often characterized by the heat of conflict. Religious and secular readers of this helpful book may still disagree on issues of public concern, but will perhaps see how current debates accomplish little more than 'talking past' one another. The alternative that Sumser proposes, to at least recognize the differing stories by which we and others make sense of our worlds, offers a basis for meaningful dialogue.
Mark Ward Sr., University of Houston–Victoria

John Sumser beautifully dissects the narratives and reasoning styles which undergird contemporary religious and secular thought. His deep analysis reveals the ways in which faith and reason utilize different kinds of language games. By clarifying how religious and secular apologists speak past one another, Sumser provides us with a new perspective on an age-old question: ‘what is really real?’ This book is essential reading for anyone interested in evaluating the popular polemics of Christian fundamentalism and the New Atheism.
Paul Froese, Baylor University and author of On Purpose: How We Create the Meaning of Life

A well-written and insightful explanation of how Christian fundamentalist and New Atheism beliefs are communicated through polarizing narratives which buttress the religious and secular divisions that afflict contemporary American society.
Barry A. Kosmin, Trinity College, Hartford, Conneticut