Skepticism and American Faith: from the Revolution to the Civil War (Hardback)Christopher Grasso (author)
Hardback 664 Pages / Published: 19/07/2018
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Between the American Revolution and the Civil War, the dialogue of religious skepticism and faith shaped struggles over the place of religion in politics in the Revolutionary era. It then produced different visions of knowledge and education in an "enlightened" society. It fueled social reform in an era of economic transformation, territorial expansion, and social change. Ultimately, it molded the making and eventual unmaking of American nationalism. Yet religious skepticism has been rendered nearly invisible by the stories usually told about American religious history, which often stress the in-your-face evangelicalism of the era, or the "secularization" said to be happening behind people's backs, or assume that skepticism was for intellectuals while ordinary people who stayed away from church were merely indifferent. Certainly the efforts of small groups of vocal "infidels" or "freethinkers" were dwarfed by the legions conducting religious revivals, creating missions and moral reform societies, distributing Bibles and Christian tracts, and building churches across the land. Even if few Americans publicly challenged Christian truth claims, however, many more quietly doubted, and religious skepticism touched - and in some cases transformed - more lives than we might expect from standard accounts. Commentators considered religious doubt to be a persistent problem, too, not because there were armies of skeptics marching in the streets but because they believed that skeptical challenges to the grounds of faith - the Bible, the church, and personal experience - threatened the foundations of American society. Skepticism and American Faith examines the ways that Americans - ministers, merchants, and mystics; physicians, schoolteachers, and feminists; self-help writers, slaveholders, shoemakers, and soldiers - wrestled with faith and doubt as they lived their daily lives and tried to make sense of their world.
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Number of pages: 664
Weight: 1084 g
Dimensions: 243 x 165 x 42 mm
"Christopher Grasso has pursued what other historians have considered by-ways in order to show that deism, skepticism, and religious doubt were anything but marginal in the formative decades of the United States. Deep research, intelligent organization, and persuasive argumentation make this book one of the very best in the recent outpouring of outstanding studies explaining 'religious America' between the founding and the Civil War."--Mark A. Noll, author of America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln
"Questioning the overworked distinction between the religious and the secular, Grasso explores the dense entanglements of skepticism and faith that shaped so much of American religious and political life. Even as evangelicalism waxed strong in the new nation, freethinking suspicions could not be banished and kept eating away (often from within) at the particularities of the Christian gospel. The very subtlety of Grasso's story raises considerable doubt about any trust we yet place in such grand narrative devices as secularization and Christianization."--Leigh Eric Schmidt, Washington University in St. Louis
"Americans have often assumed that the United States was founded on faith. But in this landmark history, Christopher Grasso argues that doubt was far more prevalent than many observers have cared to admit. Drawing on a vast array of sources, Grasso reveals that a lively dialogue between faith and skepticism characterized the entire period from the Revolution to the Civil War not only at the public level but also in the personal lives of individuals both famous and obscure. Anyone who has ever wondered about the status of (ir)religion in American society will need to wrestle with this remarkable book."--Peter J. Thuesen, author of Predestination: The American Career of a Contentious Doctrine
"A magisterial study of the entangled threads of faith and skepticism that have run so prominently through America's history. In Grasso's deft reading, faith and disbelief in nineteenth-century America were not opposite poles of experience but a spiritual and psychological continuum along which many people traveled. The cast of characters is epic and in tracking the personal journeys of men and women into and out of faith, Grasso recreates a vibrant world of skeptics, scoffers, and the simply indifferent who for too long have lived in the scholarly shadow of their more famous evangelical counterparts."--Susan Juster, author of Sacred Violence in Early America
"Revealing...Grasso's book demonstrates the centrality of skepticism in understanding how the American inclination to faith has been 'forged in the foundry of culture."--Publishers Weekly
"A revealing look at religion in the new nation...Grasso's book shines a light on an aspect of America's cultural history that is too often neglected....These efforts and disputes [between skepticism and faith], Mr. Grasso contends, were at the center the country's search for a self-definition."-- D.G. HART, Wall Street Journal
"Grasso draws on an avalanche of research to challenge conventional wisdom about the 'lived religious experiences' of American Protestants. Between the American Revolution and the Civil War, he demonstrates, deism, doubt, skepticism and even infidelity were often hidden in plain sight... 'Skepticism and American Faith' is, dare I say it, one hell of a book. As he brings back to life a vast cast of characters, many of them long forgotten, as they struggled with faith and doubt, Grasso adds immeasurably to our understanding of American history and culture."-Glenn C. Altschuler, Tulsa World
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