Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism

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Macmillan, Apr 5, 2004 - History - 417 pages
19 Reviews
An authoritative history of the vital role of secularist thinkers and activists in the United States, from a writer of “fierce intelligence and nimble, unfettered imagination” (The New York Times)

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 paints a striking portrait of 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 accomplishments of secularists who, allied with liberal and tolerant religious believers, have stood at the forefront of the battle for reforms opposed by reactionary forces in the past and today.

Rich with such iconic figures as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Clarence Darrow—as well as once-famous secularists such as Robert Green Ingersoll, “the Great Agnostic”—Freethinkers restores to history generations of dedicated humanists. It is they, Jacoby shows, who have led the struggle to uphold the combination of secular government and religious liberty that is the glory of the American system.
  

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - cdogzilla - LibraryThing

The great tradition of American Freethought is sadly neglected. I'm not sure I read about Darrow or Paine in school -- maybe Paine, in passing -- but certainly not Ingersoll. If I hadn't sought out ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - quantum_flapdoodle - LibraryThing

This book details the history of religious dissent in America. There have been all too few books written of this nature, but fortunately this one came along to fill the void with erudition and elegant prose. Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
Revolutionary Secularism
13
The Age of Reason and Unreason
35
Lost Connections Anticlericalism Abolitionism and Feminism
66
The Belief and Unbelief of Abraham Lincoln
104
Evolution and Its Discontents
124
The Great Agnostic and the Golden Age of Freethought
149
Dawn of the Culture Wars
186
The Best Years of Our Lives
292
Culture Wars Redux
317
Reason Embattled
348
Robert Ingersolls Eulogy for Walt Whitman March 30 1892
367
Notes
371
Selected Bibliography
389
Acknowledgments
399
Index
403

Unholy Trinity Atheists Reds Darwinists
227
Onward Christian Soldiers
268

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2004)

Susan Jacoby is the author of five 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.

Bibliographic information