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The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief Paperback – May 2, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (May 2, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195106504
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195106503
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This work is a readable, well-documented historical narrative on the influence of Protestantism in shaping U.S. higher education during the late 19th century. The author explores the hows and whys of the once - pervasive influence of religion in the intellectual and cultural life of America's pace-setting colleges and universities (e.g., schools like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton) from its beginnings to it disestablishment. In concluding, the author argues that just as the academy has introduced alternative curricula (e.g., feminist and multicultural perspectives), it should again consider making room for traditional religious viewpoints that can provide a legitimate contribution to the highest level of scholarship. Recommended for academic libraries.
- Samuel T. Huang, Northern Illinois Univ. Libs., DeKalb
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Kirkus Reviews

In pleading for universities to give religious teachings the same respect they give feminist and multicultural perspectives, Marsden (History/Notre Dame, The Secularization of the Academy, etc.) cogently argues that major American universities, founded essentially as religious institutions, are now so hostile to religion that they largely exclude religious viewpoints. Marsden reminds the reader that in the 19th century, while ``the United States was formally pluralistic, its cultural centers had never seen a time when Protestantism was not dominant.'' Indeed, most late 19th-century colleges and universities actively promoted evangelical Christianity. Strikingly, by 1920, evangelical Protestantism had largely disappeared from the leading universities, as establishment Protestants used values of secular humanism and buzzwords like ``tolerance'' and ``liberalism'' to marginalize both fundamentalist Protestantism and Catholicism. This ``disestablishmentarism'' of religious perspectives, together with the ``universalism'' of the mainstream Protestantism that identified itself with secular culture and forced other religious positions to the periphery, ironically contributed to the establishment of nonbelief as the only valid viewpoint. The same arguments and attitudes used by liberal Protestants to exclude other religious perspectives were used to exclude normative religious teaching of any kind. Marsden argues that while the disestablishment of a universal religious culture is probably a positive development, the prevailing secularism actually constrains the free exercise of religion. The academy should make room for traditional religious viewpoints, he says, just as it has done for other perspectives that go against the grain of mainstream scholarship. First-rate historical analysis, joined with a compelling argument for giving God a voice on campus, although Marsden, limiting his discussion to ``great universities,'' does gloss over relevant areas: influential Jewish or Catholic institutions, most Southern and African-American colleges, and conservative Protestant colleges. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Matheny on May 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. It is very detailed, and I would occasionally get lost in all those details. But I enjoyed Marsden's story of the gradual shift from colleges and universities dominiated by Protestant church influence to college and universities that had become neutral or even hostile to expressions of religious faith. Since I have worked in and around college campuses all my life, I found myself several times saying "So that's why that is true today!" I really enjoyed Marsden's tracing of the rise of the scientific worldview as dominate in university life. I wish Marsden had treated the shift from modernism to postmodernism more, since I believe that shift began occuring in the latter part of the 1900's, well within the scope of his book. I will say that only motivated readers will finish this book--it is very detailed and long. But for those who are interested, it is worth the time spent.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gerard Reed on April 7, 2009
Format: Paperback
One of America's finest scholars, George M. Marsden, offers us a first-rate intellectual history in The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief (New York: Oxford University Press, c. 1994). The book's subtitle sums up Marsden's thesis. He moves from the Colonial era's "establishment of Protestant nonsectarianism" to "defining the American university in a scientific age" during the last century, to analyzing "when the tie no longer binds" in our day.
America's "university system was built on a foundation of evangelical Protestant colleges" (p. 4). Until after the Civil War, virtually all universities retained a certain "evangelical" commitment, with required chapels, recurrent revivals, and resident clergymen-presidents. Yet within a short 50 years virtually all these universities underwent a metamorphosis, so that "by the 1920s the evangelical Protestantism of the old-time colleges had been effectively excluded from leading university classrooms" (p. 4). During the next half-century, the faith which had founded and structured the universities would be routinely ignored, pilloried and rejected.
Marsden finds a key to this process in the bombshell of a book William F. Buckley, Jr. published in 1951, God and Man at Yale. Reviewing his texts and teachers at Yale, Buckley pointed to "the triumph of 'relativism, pragmatism and utilitarianism,' in the spirit of philosopher of John Dewey. 'There is surely not a department at Yale,' Buckley observed, 'that is uncontaminated with the absolute that there are no absolutes, no intrinsic rights, no ultimate truths'" (p. 12). Though his judgment may have been severe, Buckley incisively exposed the true state of Yale's secularized irreligion.
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By C.D.Benjamin on July 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So called scholars lack practical experience and perception.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mike Bryant on May 22, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a student of American religious history and an educator, this book filled a needed area of my education. For those in the history/education fields, this book will possibly provide new insights into the development and metamorphosis of religious higher education in the United States.
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