Review Of "Prophesies Of Godlessness: Predictions Of America's Imminent Secularization, From The Puritans To The Present Day" Edited By C. Mathewes And C. McKnight

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These essays, developed from seminars at the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, demonstrate that a debate on the status of religion in America has been a perennial subject from the time of the Puritans to the present. Some feared that a decline in religious commitments would erode society's morality; a few welcomed it as paving the way to a triumph of science and progress. Others saw secularization as inevitable--allowing true spirituality to escape the confines of churches and dogmas. The 12 chapters plus perceptive introduction and epilogue discuss Jefferson, Emerson, Lincoln, Ingersoll, Comte, William James, Fosdick, Charles Hodge, Mencken, and Falwell. The chronologically organized essays relate individuals to major themes in American history--the Enlightenment, Romanticism, industrialism, the Civil War, liberalism, fundamentalism, the 1960s, and 9/11. The comments on secularization theories' rise and fall as an explanatory device by the social sciences are particularly valuable. Throughout the authors analyze recurrent themes in different periods. This book, which assumes some basic knowledge, could provoke stimulating discussions in advanced undergraduate and graduate seminars in American intellectual/religious history and sociology. It should be mandatory reading for those in divinity schools and the parish ministry; even specialists will find new insights. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above.


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