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Freethinkers: A History of American…

Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism (2004)

by Susan Jacoby

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,0462712,409 (4.18)32
"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.… (more)

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» See also 32 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
We need more enlightened writers like Susan Jacoby. ( )
  r1ck | Jun 20, 2019 |
I found this book to be fascinating. I can't really put it better than the blurb though.

There are many things that I wish they would have told us about this sort of thing in school.

Five out of five stars from me. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
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 often aligns more with a secular approach to most issues, this book is refreshing and inspiring in its journey through the secular history of the United States and its focus on the well-known (like Jefferson and Lincoln) and the less well-know (like Thomas Paine and Robert Ingersoll) as a very American story of secularism emerges. This volume is by no means a definitive history and I would argue several topics and figures deserve a more thorough examination, but it is a example of applying a secular lens on American history and through that, telling a new story about the country's past. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Nov 16, 2018 |
3.5 stars
( )
  AaronJacobs | Oct 23, 2018 |
I learned quite a bit and found many of the chapters interest. The one downside is the writing can be very dry.
  Jillian789 | Apr 16, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Ardent and insightful, Ms. Jacoby seeks to rescue a proud tradition from the indifference of posterity.
The great virtue of Susan Jacoby’s book is that it succeeds so well in its own original intent: showing that secularism, agnosticism and atheism are as American as cherry pie. Indeed, this is the first and only country to adopt a Constitution that specifically excludes all reference to a higher power...

In lucid and witty prose, Jacoby has uncovered the hidden history of secular America, and awarded it a large share of credit in every movement for social and political reform... If the book has a fault, it is the near-axiomatic identification of the secular cause with the liberal one. Susan Jacoby has what might be called ACLU politics. To read her, you would not know that two of the most prominent intellectual gurus of American conservatism — Ayn Rand and Leo Strauss — were both determined nonbelievers. H.L. Mencken, who if not exactly a conservative was certainly not a liberal, had vast contempt for religion but is cited only briefly here for his role in the Scopes trial in Tennessee.
added by SnootyBaronet | editWashington Post, Christopher Hitchens

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Susan Jacobyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Candell, JohnCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Metsch, FritzDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The most formidable weapon against
errors of any kind is reason.
            —Thomas Paine, 1794
For Robert and Irma Broderick Jacoby
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On the centennial anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Robert Ingersoll, the foremost champion of freethought and the most famous orator in late-nineteenth-century America, paid tribute in his hometown of Peoria, Illinois, to "the first secular government that was ever founded in this world."
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Introduction p.i
1. Revolutionary Secularism p.13
2.The Age of Reason and Unreason p.35
3. Lost Connections: Anticlericalism, Abolitionism, and Feminism p.66
4. The Belief and Unbelief of Abraham Lincoln p.104
5. Evolution and Its Discontents p.124
6. The Great Agnostic and the Golden Age of Freethought p.149
7. Dawn of the Culture Wars p.186
8. Unholy Trinity: Atheists, Reds, Darwinists p.227
9. Onward Christian Soldiers p.268
10. The Best Years of Our Lives p.292
11. Culture Wars Redux p.317
12. Reason Embattled p.348
Appendix: Robert Ingersoll's Eulogy for Walt Whitman, March 30, 1892 p.367
Notes p.371
Selected Bibliography p.389
Acknowledgments p.399
Index p.403
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