So, finally, my overall thoughts on the book.
The starting point is an interesting one, but also one that I think most people can accept. After reading the book, I was discussing the “keep the peace and provide security” aspect of it with a co-worker who denied that that was what society and government was for, and yet I was eventally able to convince him that that is at least part of it by pointing out that while he thought he might be able to protect himself fully from all challenges, it would result in his living a life that he didn’t want to live. Thus, he wanted to be able to leave himself so vulnerable, and that was what the state provided. I also think that the only religious people who would deny this are those who absolutely want a theocracy; for everyone else, this seems reasonable.
But the main issue, again, is that moving from that reasonable starting point to his conclusion is not as easy a move, and everything depends on it. Thus, when he talks about the principles by which the State should be organized and particularly how religion and the law should interact, his arguments don’t really seem convincing … and, in fact, it looks like his starting point might justify the opposite conclusion. So definitely more work needs to be done on that before I, at least, will be convinced.
Unlike some other authors, Blackford does address opposing positions frequently, and seems to be presenting them fairly (although I cannot say for certain since I’m not familiar with the opposing viewpoints). This is nice and also helps to clarify what his position is.
Overall, the book is a good start, but is really only a start to the debate. It doesn’t even come close to ending it.