The Limits of American Secularism: A Perspective from its Early History
The U.S. has made historic contributions to secularism, yet it is arguably the world’s most religious political democracy. The early history of American secularism offers some clues as to why and how these facts cohere.
Sam Haselby, Visiting Assistant Professor in Columbia’s Department of History, is a historian of American religion and political culture. He was a Junior Fellow (2007-10) at the Harvard Society of Fellows and has taught at The New School, the American University of Beirut, and the American University in Cairo. His book, The Origins of American Religious Nationalism, (March, 2015, Oxford University Press), focuses on the half century surrounding the American Revolution. It shows how a fight within Anglo-American Protestantism transformed American nationality, in particular by introducing new rationales for inequality and by shaping why “Indian removal” happened when and how it did. He has written for several popular publications, most recently The Guardian and Al-Jazeera, on U.S. politics and religion in historical perspective. He is currently working on a book about the opium trade as a globalizing process in Anglo-American society.
An audio recording of this event is now available here.
The Religion and Politics in American Public Life lecture series, co-coordinated for 2014-15 by Professors Courtney Bender, Jean Cohen, Josef Sorett, and John Torpey, is a series of public conversations that explore the often contentious role of religion in American political and public life. Each session features a speaker presenting on a timely, topical intersection of religion with American politics and society, such as civil religion, public discourses of morality, and reproductive and sexual rights.
The series is jointly sponsored by the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life; the PhD Program in Sociology at the Graduate Center, CUNY; the Department of Political Science at Columbia University; and the Department of Religion at Columbia University.
For a list of previous speakers and topics, see ircpl.org/americanpubliclife. All talks in this series are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. Email email@example.com with any questions.