Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

  • List Price: $20.00
  • Save: $5.11 (26%)
FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books.
Only 18 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
Freethinkers: A History o... has been added to your Cart
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
Condition: Used: Acceptable
Comment: The item is fairly worn but continues to work perfectly. Signs of wear can include aesthetic issues such as scratches, dents, and worn corners. All pages and the cover are intact, but the dust cover may be missing. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting, but the text is not obscured or unreadable. Slight water damage may be present.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 3 images

Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism Paperback – December 23, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 137 customer reviews

See all 9 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$6.99 $0.93

Best Books of the Month
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
$14.89 FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books. Only 18 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
click to open popover

Frequently Bought Together

  • Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism
  • +
  • The Age of American Unreason
  • +
  • Anti-Intellectualism in American Life
Total price: $42.40
Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Is America really one nation under God? Not according to Pulitzer Prize–finalist Jacoby (Wild Justice, etc.), who argues that it is America's secularist "freethinkers" who formed the bedrock upon which our nation was built. Jacoby contends that it's one of "the great unresolved paradoxes" that religion occupies such an important place in a nation founded on separation of church and state. She traces the role of "freethinkers," a term first coined in the 17th century, in the formation of America from the writing of the Constitution to some of our greatest social revolutions, including abolition, feminism, labor, civil rights and the dawning of Darwin's theory of evolution. Jacoby has clearly spent much time in the library, and the result is an impressive literary achievement filled with an array of both major and minor figures from American history, like revolutionary propagandist Thomas Paine, presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Robert Green Ingersoll. Her historical work is further flanked by current examples—the Bush White House in an introduction and the views of conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia in a final chapter—that crystallize her concern over secularism's waning influence. Unfortunately, Jacoby's immense research is also the book's Achilles heel. Her core mission to impress upon readers the historical struggle of freethinkers against the religious establishment is at times overwhelmed by the sheer volume of characters and vignettes she offers, many of which, frankly, are not very compelling. Still, Jacoby has done yeoman's work in crafting her message that the values of America's freethinkers belong "at the center, not in the margins" of American life.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Jacoby reclaims a key facet of American culture, secularism, or freethinking, the belief that public good is "based on human reason and human rights rather than divine authority," a concept codified in the Constitution's separation of church and state. Veteran author Jacoby feels that now is the perfect time for a thorough reexamination of America's secular tradition because, as she documents, it is being severely eroded by the politics of the Christian Right. Her cogent and engaging narrative presents myriad neglected yet significant historical episodes and compelling profiles of such clarion freethinkers as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Walt Whitman, and John F. Kennedy. Jacoby reveals how the abolitionist and women's rights movements, archetypal freethinking efforts, challenged orthodox religious institutions as obstacles to social reform, and she dissects the church's role in organized censorship and negative impact on public education, especially its opposition to the teaching of evolution. As Jacoby critiques the rise of religious correctness and tracks President Bush's assault on the line between church and state, she reminds readers that humanist values are the bedrock of democracy. Enlightening, invigorating, and responsibly yet passionately argued, Jacoby's unparalleled history of American secularism offers a much needed perspective on today's most urgent social issues. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

New York Times best sellers
Browse the New York Times best sellers in popular categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books and more. See more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks (January 7, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805077766
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805077766
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It could be that Susan Jacoby's latest book may finally put an end to the ignorance that most Americans exhibit about the role that secularism has played in the social, cultural, and political development of the United States. It is a fact that Americans are woefully deficient when it comes to knowledge about American history, a lack which permits those with specific socio-political agendas to perpetuate distortions about the part that secularism and religion played in the founding of this nation and continue to play in its evolution. This matter is especially crucial now because of the current issues surrounding church-state separation, including an important case soon to be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court.
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 ›
7 Comments 383 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover
I've just finished reading this title, which I would best describe as a very important, thoroughly readable expose of our free-thinking history and the relentless, repetitive attempts to undermine that tradition. It's probably the most thought-provoking book I've read since Louis Menand's The Metaphysical Club (If you haven't read it already, look it up), the author of which seems to share the same enlightenment bent as Jacoby. As you can tell, that philosophy reflects my world view as well. In fact, the only downside of this book is that you're most likely to enjoy and appreciate it if you, like me, already consider yourself a free-thinking, secular rationalist with an "enlightenment" perspective on history, including a strong belief in the separation of church and state. If you are a member of the Christian right, you will probably throw this book into the fireplace after the first few chapters (That would be the only alternative to having your views on the mixture of politics and religion painstakingly and devastastingly revealed as narrow-minded and undemocratic).
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 ›
Comment 281 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Freethinkers" is a worthwhile survey of the rich American metaphysical, spiritual, and philosophical heritage beyond the framework of organized religion. Although it has a number of shortcomings, Jacoby's spirited and opinionated overview serves as a corrective for the prevalent view that the history of the United States is that of a strictly "Christian nation" (whatever that term may mean).

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 ›
Comment 110 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism
Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more about Amazon Giveaway
This item: Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism