It's nice of richarddawkins.net to promote the book in this post. I'm grateful for this, and I thank Mike Cornwell and/or Richard if he was involved personally and/or whoever else was responsible (it wasn't prompted by me).
I've got to say that some of the comments on the thread are discouraging, beginning with the very first one. This is just one case where the sorts of comments made in that forum don't seem, to me, to reflect the thoughtfulness, seriousness, and fairness of Richard Dawkins himself.
Okay, okay, I get that we don't think religious doctrine should influence the law or politics. That's pretty much what the book argues. But we do get an intersection of these three things in practice, and this is important enough to merit examination and critique. Religion, law, and politics interact all the time, constantly in dialogue and influencing each other. If we don't think that should happen, or if we want to limit or structure how it should happen, we need a theory as to why. And it's no good simply saying that religious doctrines are all false. We're in real trouble if atheists are the only people who'll accept some kind of functional separation, or distance, of religion from law making and politics. That separation can't await the mass deconversion of, say, the United States of America. Furthermore, such separation as does exist is under constant challenge.
In fact, I think that there are good reasons for a functional separation of religion and political power ... and once they are explained they should be attractive not only to atheists but also to many (perhaps most) religious people. But they need to be articulated in a clear, modern, accessible way. I don't know of any book that has done this really well: too often, highly controversial ideas in political philosophy are relied on; or else the argument is only accessible to law professors; or else it's rather crude and unconvincing; or else it just doesn't deliver what it claims (too often, only a very weak separation is really argued for, and the most important aspects of separation may not be the ones that actually get advocated).
I've made an attempt to do this job ... to fill the identifiable gap.
And I try to work through the implications, examining the relationship between secular government and the classic liberal views of people like John Stuart Mill. That takes me to the implications for hot-button topics relating to freedom of religion - such as the burqa - and to large topics in liberal thought, such as freedom of speech.
Whether or not I've done a good job of this remains to be seen. It's not up to me to judge, and maybe the book will end up being a failure. Perhaps, for all I know, it will encounter powerful criticisms. At the least, it will encounter controversy.
For all that, I'm proud of my work at this point. It's nice that the book will see publication next month. But knee-jerk dismissal of such an exercise as either unimportant or easy doesn't exactly inspire me. The job is neither unimportant nor easy.