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The presence and function of religion in society is foundational in Western thought. Since the first attempts by thinkers such as Plato (427 – 347 BCE), more than two millennia ago, to define the good life, the good citizen, the good judge, and the good ruler, a negotiation between the absolute and revealed, on the one hand, and the rational and relative, on the other, has been the central pursuit of philosophical debate (Tarcov and Pangle 1987). As part of the absolute and taken for granted, religion has played a constant and central part in that negotiation. Centuries after Plato, St. Augustine (354–430 CE), who made explicit the distinction between a religious domain and a separate secular domain, argued that salvation and happiness could come only from divine grace and revelation, rather than from human justice and reason as recommended by the pagan Greek philosophers (Fortin 1987, 197). In the nineteenth century, along this longstanding normative debate between those for and those against religion’s influence in human affairs, a second question crystallized. The question asked whether modern life would push religion to the brink of extinction, and the anticipated answer was affirmative. This is known as the secularization thesis.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReligion
Subtitle of host publicationBeyond Religion
EditorsPhil Zuckerman
Place of PublicationFarmington Hills
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2016

Publication series

NameMacmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks: Religion


  • religion in society
  • religion
  • secularization


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