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Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism Paperback – December 23, 2004
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Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The importance of Jacoby's book is that it fills a gap which for too long has existed in the study and presentation of American history. It is often forgotten (or ignored?) that America's evolution was influenced by two great traditions, not just one as so many cultural commentators have insisted. The Judaic-Christian religious tradition certainly had a major impact on the development of American moral thinking and practice. But, equally important if not more so, the pagan or secular Greco-Roman tradition had its impact on the formation of American political institutions and the development of American jurisprudence. Many books have been written about the Judaic-Christian contributions (regrettably, some historically inaccurate), but the pagan-secular contributions have tended to be either forgotten or ignored and this problem has now been corrected by Jacoby's treatise.
Generally speaking, "Freethinkers" is an historical survey of secularist thought and influence in American history with a special emphasis on the most important actors in this unfolding drama.Read more ›
This is a "history" book, and rarely strays from the rationalist, dispassionate course you'd expect, but Jacoby's personal views are made amply clear: church and state were always meant to be and should remain separate institutions under our system of government. It's great to have someone like Jacoby on this (my) side, and to put it in print for the record, because she masterfully and precisely conveys the facts of history which, to put it plainly, make her opponents look silly.
For a few examples, she:
-catalogs a long litany of misdeeds and injustices that have been carried out in the name of religion, refuting the idea that religion is always a force for good in a political setting.Read more ›
The book is at its best when Jacoby discusses particular historical figures, treatises, movements, and events. She focuses on such stalwart and respected authorities as James Madison, Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ernestine Rose, Robert Green Ingersoll, Margaret Sanger, and Clarence Darrow. These biographical accounts include generous excerpts from and perceptive analyses of their writings and speeches. The lives and works of freethinkers are examined in the context of various movements and events, including Deism, anticlericalism, abolitionism, the Civil War, feminism, the first Red Scare, the Scopes trial, the growth of Catholic influence in urban politics, and the culture wars of the last two decades.
Nearly all this history is told as a series of captivating biographies and trenchant stories, and the result is unusually accessible and pleasurable reading. There are also some truly memorable anecdotes: the bravery required by Angelina and Sarah Grimke to inveigh against slavery in an era when women did not make public speeches; the issuance of the two-cent piece in order to accommodate the request by a small cadre of Christians to add "In God We Trust" to the currency; the uproar that greeted the publication of "The Woman's Bible.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a very well-written history of secularism in America. It gives a good characterization of many of the important people and attitudes of the times, and manages to narrate... Read morePublished 1 month ago by eman nep
A concise analysis of free thought in the U S from early days of the infant nation to more recent times of George Bush and Antonin Scalia. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Elizabeth Strejcek
This was a very informative and the writing kept the reader engaged the whole time. I learned alot from this and highly recommend it.Published 1 month ago by D. Furr
Excellent subject matter. The author is a bit wordy. I didn't make it through the entire book.Published 2 months ago by nixanadoo
I enjoyed learning about a part of our history that has been played down in the standard teaching of history. It is worth reading.Published 4 months ago by Richard A. Moe
Well written comprehensive history of secularist movement in the United States. Clearly exposes encroachment of religion with deleterious effects. Read morePublished 5 months ago by lelia ann owston
As one myself, I agree with pretty much everything in here (what a surprise, eh?). Just glad I'm going through life this way. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Nigel Watson
... an education that I should have received decades ago, in public school, and did not.
Ms. Jacoby has a point of view that she does not hide, but her views do not change the... Read more