Skepticism and American Faith
From the Revolution to the Civil War
Oxford University Press 2018
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Christian StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network September 6, 2018 Lilian Calles Barger
Christopher Grasso is a professor of history at the College of William and Mary. His book Skepticism and American Faith: From the Revolution to the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2018) explores the tensions and ongoing dialogue between religious faith and skepticism and fear over how it would shape the character of the nation. Religious promoters and detractors both appealed to enlightened reason and the need for social reform. Shop owners, ministers, freethinkers, mystics, and soldiers had to deal with enlightened challenges to faith and God intellectually and personally. Grasso moves beyond public debates to demonstrate how many ordinary people wrestled with doubt at a time when legions of others participated in revivals, mission work, moral reform and establishing churches. Personal and political struggles ultimately led to a religious nationalism on the part of some and a civic religion on the part of others. The book adds needed detail and texture to the history of how religion and politics converged, one in which the dominance of Protestantism in America was not as secure as we often understand it.
This episode of New Books in American Studies was produced in cooperation with the Society for U.S. Intellectual History.
Lilian Calles Barger is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her recent book is entitled The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology (Oxford University Press, 2018).