Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism

Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism

by Susan Jacoby
Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism

Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism

by Susan Jacoby


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"Jacoby accomplishes her task with clarity, thoroughness, and an engaging passion."
-Los Angeles Times Book Review

At a time when the separation of church and state is under attack as never before, Freethinkers offers a powerful defense of the secularist heritage that gave Americans the first government in the world founded not on the authority of religion but on the bedrock of human reason. In impassioned, elegant prose, celebrated author Susan Jacoby traces more than two hundred years of secularist activism, beginning with the fierce debate over the omission of God from the Constitution. Moving from nineteenth-century abolitionism and suffragism through the twentieth century's civil liberties, civil rights, and feminist movements, Freethinkers illuminates the neglected achievements of secularists who, allied with tolerant believers, have led the battle for reform in the past and today.

Rich with such iconic figures as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, and the once-famous Robert Green Ingersoll, Freethinkers restores to history the passionate humanists who struggled against those who would undermine the combination of secular government and religious liberty that is the glory of the American system.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780805077766
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 01/01/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 411,253
Product dimensions: 5.53(w) x 8.26(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Susan Jacoby is the author of several books including Wild Justice, a Pulitzer Prize finalist. A contributor to The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsday, and Vogue, she lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

From Freethinkers:

In 2004, it is impossible to imagine an avowed atheist or agnostic winning the American presidency or even being nominated. Ronald Reagan, whose record of religious observance during his Hollywood years was spotty at best, started turning up regularly at church services as soon as he was elected governor of California. Although Democrats have been more careful to separate private religious views from policy-making, Jimmy Carter, the first born-again Christian in the White House, and Bill Clinton, the first president to publicly ask God’s forgiveness for adultery, did their part to blur the distinction between personal faith and civic responsibility. In the Bush White House, where Cabinet meetings routinely begin with a prayer, the institutionalization of religion has reached an apotheosis. Today, it is possible that Lincoln, who refused to join a church even though his advisers argued that some affiliation would help his election chances, could well be unacceptable as a major party presidential candidate.

Table of Contents

1Revolutionary Secularism13
2The Age of Reason and Unreason35
3Lost Connections: Anticlericalism, Abolitionism, and Feminism66
4The Belief and Unbelief of Abraham Lincoln104
5Evolution and Its Discontents124
6The Great Agnostic and the Golden Age of Freethought149
7Dawn of the Culture Wars186
8Unholy Trinity: Atheists, Reds, Darwinists227
9Onward, Christian Soldiers268
10The Best Years of Our Lives292
11Culture Wars Redux317
12Reason Embattled348
AppendixRobert Ingersoll's Eulogy for Walt Whitman, March 30, 1892367
Selected Bibliography389
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