Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism

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Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism

Author: Susan Jacoby
Publisher: Henry Holt
Copyright: 2004
Pages: 370
Cover Price: $ 18.00

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At a time when the separation of church and state is under attack as never before, Freethinkers offers a powerful defense of the secularist heritage that gave Americans the first government in the world founded not on the authority of religion but on the bedrock of human reason. In impassioned, elegant prose, celebrated author Susan Jacoby traces more than two hundred years of secularist activism, beginning with the fierce debate over the omission of God from the Constitution. Moving from nineteenth-century abolitionism and suffragism through the twentieth century's civil liberties, civil rights, and feminist movements, Freethinkers illuminates the neglected achievements of secularists who, allied with tolerant believers, have led the battle for reform in the past and today.

Rich with such iconic figures as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Paine, and the once-famous Robert Green Ingersoll, Freethinkers restores to history the passionate humanists who struggled against those who would undermine the combination of secular government and religious liberty that is the glory of the American system.

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Background Information

The separation of church and state, incorporated in the First Amendment, is established without that exact phrase ever being used. Religion brought some of the first English colonists to the New World and religious variety has been a national hallmark. The United States Constitution is the written document by which both the federal government was instituted. Abolitionism was the movement, centered in the North, that abolition of slavery even in those states that had practiced it since the founding of the country. Thomas Paine wrote influential pamphlets during the American Revolution, which have inspired revolutionaries ever since.