I want to strongly recommend this recently-released lecture by Onkar Ghate on “The Separation of Church and State,” given at OCON in 2009. It was particularly stellar.
The Separation of Church and State
By Onkar Ghate
With religion on the rise in America, maintaining the separation of church and state is now a pressing issue. This talk begins with an examination of the contemporary debate about the principle of separating religion from government. Dr. Ghate argues that both sides of the contemporary debate are mistaken and explains why today even most well-meaning Americans are unable to mount a tenable defense of the principle. To understand what the principle actually means, Dr. Ghate then considers some of the history behind the principle, focusing on John Locke’s crucial contributions. Finally, Dr. Ghate sketches what a full philosophical argument for the separation of church and state looks like.
(86 min., with Q & A)
For an understanding of the philosophic foundation of the secular government, including the problems with the standard attacks on and defenses thereof, you won’t find anything better. Most people in the audience were surprised and delighted by the discussion of John Locke on faith. I wasn’t surprised, but I was delighted! I’ve always taught a class on “Faith and Reason” in my Introduction to Philosophy courses, and Locke is undoubtedly the highlight. While he defends faith, his defense is such that faith cannot sustain any foothold in cognition. (Locke is far, far better than Thomas Aquinas on this issue… but that’s a subject for a future podcast.)