Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic

Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic

4.3 6
by Matthew Stewart
     
 

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Longlisted for the National Book Award.Where did the ideas come from that became the cornerstone of American democracy? America’s founders intended to liberate us not just from one king but from the ghostly tyranny of supernatural religion. Drawing deeply on the study of European philosophy, Matthew Stewart brilliantly tracks the ancient, pagan, and

Overview

Longlisted for the National Book Award.Where did the ideas come from that became the cornerstone of American democracy? America’s founders intended to liberate us not just from one king but from the ghostly tyranny of supernatural religion. Drawing deeply on the study of European philosophy, Matthew Stewart brilliantly tracks the ancient, pagan, and continental ideas from which America’s revolutionaries drew their inspiration. In the writings of Spinoza, Lucretius, and other great philosophers, Stewart recovers the true meanings of “Nature’s God,” “the pursuit of happiness,” and the radical political theory with which the American experiment in self-government began.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-05-07
Stewart (The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting it Wrong, 2009, etc.) delivers a penetrating history of an American Revolution not yet finished and a stirring reassertion of the power of ideas unbound by the shackles of superstition.Meticulously annotated and informed by imposing erudition, the book is a lively chronicle of the years leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, especially noteworthy for detailing the unsung contributions (in word and deed) of such revolutionary figures as Ethan Allen and Thomas Young. It is also an admirably lucid survey of radical philosophical thought on the nature of man and the cosmos, a guiding principle grounded in reason and transmitted from Epicurus via the poet Lucretius, further developed by the great philosophical minds of the 17th century and embraced by the Founding Fathers. Stewart's capacity to render undiluted the complex deliberations of these thinkers glows on the page, notwithstanding the occasional Mobius strip of esoterica. The author locates these ideas in the heterodox, deist origins of the Republic, with a focus on corporeal reality, not spiritual mysteries. In doing so, he reveals the true and enduring significance of the American experiment: not merely as a revolt against an imperial monarch, but against the global reach and oppressive artifice of supernatural religion. Stewart gives the simplistic "common religious consciousness" and much presumed wisdom a fair hearing, then demolishes them utterly, though not dismissing what is useful in faith. By closely analyzing the writings of Jefferson, Young, Franklin, Paine et al., he quashes the delusion that America was established as a "Christian" nation.In affording a fresh perspective on the difficult but exhilarating birth of this country, Stewart shows that the often superficially misunderstood words of the Declaration of Independence are even more profound than they appear.
Wendy Smith - Los Angeles Times
“Eloquently argued.”
Buzzy Jackson - Boston Globe
“Enthralling and important… [A] pleasure to read, its often surprising conclusions supported by elegant prose.”
Barton Swaim - Wall Street Journal
“Impressive… refreshing.”
Peter S. Onuf
“Brilliant… breathes fresh life into our understanding of the American Revolution. Beautifully written and lucidly argued, Nature’s God…will set the agenda for serious discussion of the American Revolution’s significance in world history.”
Alan Ryan
“Splendid…imaginative but never fanciful, even at its most surprising.”
Susan Jacoby
“A lively, powerful, and erudite refutation of the myth that the framers of our secular Constitution had any intention of founding an orthodox Christian nation.”
Brook Wilensky-Lanford - New Republic
“Impassioned, noble, and necessary.”
Jonathan Ree - Prospect (UK)
“[A] splendidly polemical account of the philosophy of the founding fathers.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393064544
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
07/01/2014
Pages:
576
Sales rank:
704,938
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.70(d)

Meet the Author

Matthew Stewart is the author of Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic, The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World and The Management Myth: Debunking the Modern Philosophy of Business. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Nature's God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent treatise on how the Founders were influenced by a long line of philosophers from the Greeks to the Enlightenment. Those people who drove out the English knew well the dangers of mixing religion and government. I highly recommend this book to everyone and particularly to those who have been misinformed and misled by modern day religious zealots. 
llamawalker More than 1 year ago
This book was an enlightening and wonderful read. It gets to the crux of some of the most well known founding fathers' philosophical beliefs and how that helped develop the American Revolution.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Compelling and erudite discussion of the intellectual origins of the ideas of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
18179020 More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nature's not God nimrod!