> Skip to content
  • Published: 15 January 2017
  • ISBN: 9780143108139
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • RRP: $34.99
Categories:

The Religion Of Democracy



A history of religion’s role in the American liberal tradition through the eyes of seven transformative thinkers

Today we associate liberal thought and politics with secularism. When we argue over whether the nation’s founders meant to keep religion out of politics, the godless side is said to be liberal. But the role of religion in American politics has always been far less simplistic than today’s debates would suggest. In The Religion of Democracy, historian Amy Kittelstrom shows how religion and democracy have worked together as universal ideals in American culture—and as guides to moral action and to the social practice of treating one another as equals who deserve to be free.

The first people in the world to call themselves “liberals” were New England Christians in the early republic. Inspired by their religious belief in a God-given freedom of conscience, these Americans enthusiastically embraced the democratic values of equality and liberty, giving shape to the liberal tradition that would remain central to our politics and our way of life. The Religion of Democracy re-creates the liberal conversation from the eighteenth century to the twentieth by tracing the lived connections among seven transformative thinkers through what they read and wrote, where they went, whom they knew, and how they expressed their opinions—from John Adams to William James to Jane Addams; from Boston to Chicago to Berkeley. Sweeping and ambitious, The Religion of Democracy is a lively narrative of quintessentially American ideas as they were forged, debated, and remade across our history.

  • Published: 15 January 2017
  • ISBN: 9780143108139
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • RRP: $34.99
Categories:

Praise for The Religion Of Democracy

Christian Century:  “The Religion of Democracy is an extremely well-researched and interesting description of the sustaining arguments and tenets of the American Reformation, as well as an informative portrayal of the complex lives of some of its central figures.” The San Francisco Chronicle:  “Historian Kittelstrom brilliantly presents the historic relationship between Christianity and social progress in American history.”  Publishers Weekly (starred review): “Kittelstrom’s history stands out for its deeply textured treatment of each of these profoundly important thinkers, permitting appreciation of the influences that brought them to an enlightened view of faith and its sociopolitical implications. This timely, important work by an excellent scholar is part of the Penguin History of American Life series.” Booklist “Historian Kittelstrom examines the lives and the writings of seven prominent American liberals and suggests that today’s pluralistic political liberalism is a direct descendant of the religious liberalism that emerged in, and transformed, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries… The result is a lively and erudite reminder of pluralism’s deep roots in American soil, and religion’s role in putting them there.” Library Journal (starred review):  “Kittelstrom explores the private and intellectual lives of each individual and provides new insights into the cultural history of liberalism… Readers will appreciate the skillful weaving of primary sources into a compelling chronicle of an idea told through individual experiences.”  CHOICE Magazine: "This book challenges contemporary conversations that conflate secularism and liberalism and expands the scholarly understanding of liberalism in the US. Highly recommended." Jill Lepore, author of Book of Ages and The Secret History of Wonder WomanThe Religion of Democracy is a stunning history of the opening of the American mind. Through a shrewd study of seven subtle thinkers, Kittelstrom explores the place of belief, faith, and virtue in the intellectual traditions that lie behind American liberalism. A fascinating, important, and resonant book.”  Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 “Amy Kittelstrom here pours new life into intellectual history for scholars and concerned citizens, whether they are religious or not. She traces the commitments of present-day civic liberalism—free inquiry, cultural pluralism, public education, and compassion for the disadvantaged—not to the rise of secularism but to the Christian theological liberalism of New England at the time of the American Revolution. She finds these origins in what she terms, appropriately, an American Reformation.”  David D. Hall, Harvard University; author of A Reforming People “Turning the pages of this remarkable book, I found myself moved not only by its intellectual range and the lucidity of Kittelstrom’s prose but also by its central theme, the emergence in nineteenth-century America of an ethical commitment to democracy’s highest moral and practical possibilities—in effect, a ‘religion of democracy.’ An illuminating story, for our times as well as for what it tells us about the past.” From the Hardcover edition.

Related titles