Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism

Front Cover
Henry Holt and Company, Jan 7, 2005 - Religion - 432 pages
21 Reviews
Reviews aren't verified, but Google checks for and removes fake content when it's identified

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.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
11
4 stars
9
3 stars
0
2 stars
1
1 star
0

Reviews aren't verified, but Google checks for and removes fake content when it's identified

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - wagner.sarah35 - LibraryThing

If anything, this book is a bit dated (it was published in 2004), but the issues the author details about debates regarding the separation of church and state are still relevant today. As someone who ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - delta351 - LibraryThing

A fascinating book so far, though very thorough and incredible detail. Founding Fathers rode a brief window of secularism that enabled them to implement the separation of church & state in the ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Introduction I
1
and Feminism 66 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
Unholy Trinity Atheists Reds Darwinists
227
Onward Christian Soldiers
268
The Best Years of Our Lives
292
Culture Wars Redux
317
Reason Embattled
348
Robert Ingersolls Eulogy for Walt Whitman
367
Selected Bibliography
389
Acknowledgments
399
xi
412
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 120 - Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of War may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, ' The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
Page 113 - I know there is a God, and that He hates injustice and slavery. I see the storm coming, and I know that His hand is in it. If He has a place and work for me — and I think He has — I believe I am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything. I know I am right because I know that liberty is right, for Christ teaches it, and Christ is God.
Page 20 - Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?
Page 349 - ... for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid ; for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is a minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
Page 5 - These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
Page 108 - He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat; He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment seat : Oh ! be swift, my soul, to answer Him ! be jubilant, my feet ! Our God is marching on. In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea, With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me : As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, While God is marching on.
Page 120 - Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
Page 201 - In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array ; but (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
Page 349 - Wilt thou then not be afraid .of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Page 21 - We maintain, therefore, that in matters of religion, no man's right is abridged by the institution of civil society, and that religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance.

About the author (2005)

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.

Bibliographic information