The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $18.13
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 63%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (20) from $18.13   
  • New (9) from $24.29   
  • Used (11) from $18.13   


Only a century ago, almost all state universities held compulsory chapel services, and some required Sunday church attendance as well. In fact, state-sponsored chapel services were commonplace until the World War II era, and as late as the 1950s, it was not unusual for leading schools to refer to themselves as "Christian" institutions. Today, the once pervasive influence of religion in the intellectual and cultural life of America's preeminent colleges and universities has all but vanished. In The Soul of the American University, Marsden explores how, and why, these dramatic changes occurred.
Far from a lament for a lost golden age when mainline Protestants ruled American education, The Soul of the American University offers a penetrating critique of that era, surveying the role of Protestantism in higher education from the founding of Harvard in the 1630s through the collapse of the WASP establishment in the 1960s. Marsden tells the stories of many of our pace-setting universities at defining moments in their histories, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Chicago. He recreates the religious feuds that accompanied Yale's transition from a flagship evangelical college to a university, and the dramatic debate over the place of religion in higher education between Harvard's President Charles Eliot and Princeton's President James McCosh. Marsden's analysis ranges from debates over Darwinism and higher critics of the Bible, to the roles of government and wealthy contributors, the impact of changing student mores, and even the religious functions of college football. He argues persuasively that the values of "liberalism" and "tolerance" that the establishment championed and used to marginalize Christian fundamentalism and Roman Catholicism eventually and perhaps inevitably led to its own disappearance from the educational milieu, as nonsectarian came to mean exclusively secular.
While the largely voluntary disestablishment of religion may appear in many respects commendable, Marsden believes that it has nonetheless led to the infringement of the free exercise of religion in most of academic life. In effect, nonbelief has been established as the only valid academic perspective. In a provocative final chapter, Marsden spells out his own prescription for change, arguing that just as the academy has made room for feminist and multicultural perspectives, so should there be room once again for traditional religious viewpoints. A thoughtful blend of historical narrative and searching analysis, The Soul of the American University exemplifies what it advocates: that religious perspectives can provide a legitimate contribution to the highest level of scholarship.

In this bold reexamination of the role of religion in higher education, Marsden provides a facinating look at the histories of many pace-setting universities, including Harvard, Yale, and the University of California at Berkeley. The author augues for a new place for traditional religious perspectives in American universities.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Even this book sharpest critics will find it hard to ignore. Meticulous research, cogent arguments and radical reframing of current debate make this book a valuable contribution."—The Washington Post

"Comprehensively researched and lucidly narrated....Mr. Marsden's timely book serves as an indispensable backdrop to a debate raging today."—The New York Times Book Review

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195106503
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/28/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 935,240
  • Product dimensions: 9.19 (w) x 6.13 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Meet the Author

George M. Marsden is Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. His many books include Fundamentalism and American Culture, The Secularization of the Academy (edited with Bradley J. Longfield), and Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction 3
Prologue (I): God and Buckley at Yale (1951) 10
Prologue (II): Henry Sloane Coffin's Yale (1897) 17
Prologue (III): A "Christian College"? The Yale of Noah Porter and William Graham Sumner (1879-1881) 22
Pt. I The Establishment of Protestant Nonsectarianism 29
1 The Burden of Christendom: Seventeenth-Century Harvard 33
2 The New Queen of the Sciences and the New Republic 48
3 Two Kinds of Sectarianism 68
4 A Righteous Consensus, Whig Style 79
Pt. II Defining the American University in a Scientific Age 97
5 American Practicality and Germanic Ideals: Two Visions for Reform 101
6 The Christian Legacy in the Epoch of Science 113
7 Positive Christianity versus Positivism at Noah Porter's Yale 123
8 California: Revolution without Much Ideology 134
9 Methodological Secularization and Its Christian Rationale at Hopkins 150
10 Liberal Protestantism at Michigan: New England Intentions with Jeffersonian Results 167
11 Harvard and the Religion of Humanity 181
12 Holding the Line at Princeton 196
13 Making the World Safe from the Traditionalist Establishment 219
14 The Low-Church Idea of a University 236
Pt. III When the Tie No Longer Binds 263
15 The Trouble with the Old-Time Religion 267
16 The Elusive Ideal of Academic Freedom 292
17 The Fundamentalist Menace 317
18 The Obstacles to a Christian Presence 332
19 Outsiders 357
20 Searching for a Soul 369
21 A Church with the Soul of a Nation 388
22 Liberal Protestantism without Protestantism 408
Concluding Unscientific Postscript 429
Index 445
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)