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DanAllosso

DanAllosso

Currently reading

400 Years Of Freethought
Samuel Porter Putnam
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Jon Meacham
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
Philip Pullman, Jacob Grimm
Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson
Jennifer Michael Hecht
The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America
Paul E. Johnson, Sean Wilentz

Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism

Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism - Susan Jacoby There's a LOT of good material in this for freethinkers interested in our history. And, more important for a popular history, this is a good explanation of why secularism is vital to the survival of the nation established in North America in 1787. But there's a very substantial lack of coverage of the many connections between American and British freethought in the 19th century.*An interesting passage: "Values are handed down more easily and thoroughly by permanent institutions than by marginalized radicals who, even if they change minds in their own generation— as the abolitionists did— are often subject to remarginalization in the next...Secularist movements, with their generally loose, nonhierarchical organization, lack the power to hand down and disseminate their heritage in a systematic way" (p. 103). I was less interested in the 20th century chapters (but I tend to prefer the 19th century), but I did think it was interesting that Jacoby noted "The farmers who rode fifty miles across the prairie to hear Ingersoll speak in the 1890s were likely to be found in their own living rooms, listening to their own radios, in the 1920s— and radio sponsors did not spend their money to promote attacks on the God of the Bible" (p. 263). It's an interesting point, that it’s the centralization of speech “enabled” by technology that moved us from one-to-one to one-to-many communication and blocked out minority messages. A situation that is only now being rectified...or is it?*For an example of this transatlantic freethought connection, consider the volumes of Thomas Paine's writing found in the estate inventory of Dr. Charles Knowlton of Ashefield, Massachusetts: http://freethoughthistory.com/K/Knowlton.html