Catalogue


Revoluntionary deists : early America's rational infidels /
Kerry Walters.
edition
[Rev. ed.].
imprint
Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 2011.
description
279 p.
ISBN
1616141905 (pbk. : alk. paper), 9781616141905 (pbk. : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
Subjects
More Details
added author
imprint
Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, 2011.
isbn
1616141905 (pbk. : alk. paper)
9781616141905 (pbk. : alk. paper)
general note
Rev. ed. of: Rational infidels.
catalogue key
7379059
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Kerry Walters is the William Bittinger Chair of Philosophy at Gettysburg College. He is the author or editor of more than twenty books, including Benjamin Franklin and His Gods and Atheism: A Guide for the Perplexed. His scholarly articles have appeared in The Encyclopedia of American Religion as well as The Cambridge Companion to Benjamin Franklin.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2011-08-01:
Walters (philosophy, Gettysburg College), a leading scholar of deism in America, has here revised, updated, and retitled his 1992 Rational Infidels: The American Deists. Like the earlier book, this one profiles the religious thought of Ethan Allen, Benjamin Franklin, Philip Freneau, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Elihu Palmer. It remains a companion to Walters' anthology of primary materials, The American Deists (CH, Feb'93, 30-3238). Considerable material explores the religious views of some of these figures, but Walters' book represents one of the few to discuss Allen and Palmer and also the poet Freneau as religious figures. Walters reaches persuasive conclusions about deism's impact on American religion. He argues that the movement, sometimes regarded as extreme, stimulated appreciation of natural philosophy, increasing sensitivity to the role of reason (the head) in religion alongside what that age called the affections (the heart). Deism also influenced biblical exegesis and undergirded a continuing suspicion of dogmatism. Walters' work remains the most judicious introduction to the deistic tradition in American religion and philosophy, although Jefferson's prediction that rational religion (mostly expressed in Unitarianism) would dominate did not come true. This volume is important to a wide range of readers for an understanding of American religious thought. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. C. H. Lippy emeritus, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, August 2011
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Summaries
Main Description
A fascinating study of America's first culture war, one that in many ways has continued to this day. Includes profiles of six "rational infidels,": Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Ethan Allen, Thomas Paine, Elihu Palmer, and Philip Freneau.
Main Description
For roughly eighty-five years-between 1725 and 1810-America was agitated by what can only be described as a revolutionary movement. This was not the well-know political revolution that culminated in the War of Independence, but a revolution in religious and ethical thought. Its proponents called their radical viewpoint "deism." They challenged Christian orthodoxy and instead endorsed a belief system that celebrated the power of human reason and saw nature as God's handiwork and the only "revelation" of divine will.
Main Description
For some eighty-five yearsbetween, roughly, 1725 and 1810the American colonies were agitated by what can only be described as a revolutionary movement. This was not the well-known political revolution that culminated in the War of Independence, but a revolution in religious and ethical thought. Its proponents called their radical viewpoint "deism." They challenged Christian orthodoxy and instead endorsed a belief system that celebrated the power of human reason and saw nature as God's handiwork and the only revelation of divine will. This illuminating discussion of American deism presents an overview of the main tenets of deism, showing how its influence rose swiftly and for a time became a highly controversial subject of debate in the colonies. The deists were students of the Enlightenment and took a keen interest in the scientific study of nature. They were thus critical of orthodox Christianity for its superstitious belief in miracles, persecution of dissent, and suppression of independent thought and expression. At the heart of his book are profiles of six "rational infidels," most of whom are quite familiar to Americans as founding fathers or colonial patriots: Benjamin Franklin (the ambivalent deist), Thomas Jefferson (a critic of Christian supernaturalism but an admirer of its ethics), Ethan Allen (the rough-edged "frontier deist"), Thomas Paine (the arch iconoclast and author of The Age of Reason), Elihu Palmer (the tireless crusader for deism and perhaps its most influential proponent), and Philip Freneau (a poet whose popular verses combined deism with early romanticism). This is a fascinating study of America's first culture war, one that in many ways has continued to this day.
Table of Contents
Introducationp. 7
The "Age of Licentious Liberty": Deism in Americap. 15
The Ambivalent Deist: Benjamin Franklinp. 51
The Frontier Deist: Ethan Allenp. 87
The Iconoclastic Deist: Thomas Painep. 113
The Deistic Christian: Thomas Jeffersonp. 145
The Crusader for Deism: Elihu Palmerp. 179
Deism's Poet: Philip Freneaup. 213
Zion Restored: The Decline and Fall of American Deismp. 245
Indexp. 275
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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