Make a Donation to the New Books Network

The New Books Network is run by volunteers, but the network has expenses. If you like what we do, consider making a contribution

Amy KittelstromThe Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition

Penguin Press, 2015

by Lilian Calles Barger on May 5, 2015

Amy Kittelstrom

View on Amazon

Amy Kittelstrom is an associate professor of history at Sonoma State University. In her book The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition (Penguin Press, 2015), Kittelstrom gives us profiles of seven individual and their circle. They embodied the ideas of what she calls an "American Reformation." Beginning with John Adams, who believed every man had the duty to think for himself, to Jane Addams, who went beyond Christian charity to live among the poor, the book show us how these individuals combined liberalism and moral values to create a post-Christian "religion of democracy." The "American Reformation" was the process of moving from Protestant orthodoxy and dogma to instituting the values of equality, liberty, and democracy within the social and political structure of the nation. These seven Americans combined the classic liberal values of reason and scientific inquiry with element of reformed Christianity, such as free will and equality before God, while rejecting the Calvinist teaching of human depravity. These ideals were not only political but a social practice in a progressive vision of society. In the process liberals acquired a reputation as "godless" discarding religion for a mere moral relativism. Kittelstrom presents us with individuals whose concern for moral values were derived from their religious roots and argues that the democratic ethos of her subjects valuing the individual, as both free and equal, was due to their reconstituted religious beliefs rather than a rejection of religion. The Religion of Democracy provides the reader an opportunity to consider the religious and moral sensibilities of the liberal tradition in America.

{ 0 comments }

Ananya VajpeyiRighteous Republic: The Political Foundations of Modern India

April 30, 2015

Righteous Republic: The Political Foundations of Modern India (Harvard University Press, 2012) by Ananya Vajpeyi is a rethinking of the self in self-rule, as understood in the ideas generated and reworked by five leading figures of the Indian independence movement. Analysing crises of the self, which it is argued stem from a crisis of tradition […]

Read the full article →

Thomas KempleIntellectual Work and the Spirit of Capitalism: Weber’s Calling

April 28, 2015

Thomas Kemple's new book is an extraordinarily thoughtful invitation to approach Max Weber (1864-1920) as a performer, and to experience Weber's work by attending to his spoken and written voice. Intellectual Work and the Spirit of Capitalism: Weber's Calling (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) looks carefully at the literary structure and aesthetic elements of Weber's arguments, considering […]

Read the full article →

Janet GyatsoBeing Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet

April 24, 2015

Janet Gyatso's new book is a masterfully researched, compellingly written, and gorgeously illustrated history of medicine in early modern Tibet that looks carefully at the relationships between medicine and religion in this context. Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet (Columbia University Press, 2015) looks carefully at the "double […]

Read the full article →

Andrew CaytonLove in the Time of Revolution: Transatlantic Literary Radicalism and Historical Change, 1793-1818

April 21, 2015

Andrew Cayton is a distinguished professor of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In his book Love in the Time of Revolution: Transatlantic Literary Radicalism and Historical Change (University of North Carolina Press, 2013) he has given us a lucid and beautifully written history of the transatlantic relationships among the circle of radical writers […]

Read the full article →

Peter GottschalkReligion, Science, and Empire: Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India

April 13, 2015

When did religion begin in South Asia? Many would argue that it was not until the colonial encounter that South Asians began to understand themselves as religious. In Religion, Science, and Empire: Classifying Hinduism and Islam in British India (Oxford University Press, 2012), Peter Gottschalk, Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University, outlines the contingent and […]

Read the full article →

Carol FaulknerLucretia Mott’s Heresy: Abolition and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth-Century America

April 13, 2015

Carol Faulkner is Professor of History at Syracuse University. Her book Lucretia Mott’s Heresy: Abolition and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth-Century America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011) is a beautifully written biography of the abolitionist and Quaker Lucretia Mott. Committed to liberty and equality based on the divine light within, Mott was one the earliest American […]

Read the full article →

Leilah DanielsonAmerican Gandhi: A.J. Muste and the History of Radicalism in the Twentieth Century

April 6, 2015

Leilah Danielson is an Associate Professor of History at Northern Arizona University and author of American Gandhi: A.J. Muste and the History of Radicalism in the Twentieth Century (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014). American Gandhi is a political, intellectual and religious biography of the pacifist, labor educator and organizer A.J. Muste whose radical career and […]

Read the full article →

Trygve ThrontveitWilliam James and the Quest for an Ethical Republic

March 27, 2015

William James (1842-1910) is one of the United States’ most far-reaching thinkers. His impact on philosophy, psychology, and religious studies is well documented, yet few scholars have considered James’ impact on the area of ethics and political thought. Trygve Throntveit’s new book William James and the Quest for an Ethical Republic (Palgrave, 2014) is a […]

Read the full article →

A. Mark SmithFrom Sight to Light: The Passage from Ancient to Modern Optics

March 21, 2015

A. Mark Smith’s new book is a magisterial history of optics over the course of two millennia. From Sight to Light: The Passage from Ancient to Modern Optics (University of Chicago Press, 2015) suggests that the transition from ancient toward modern optics was accompanied by a turn in optical studies from a concern with explaining […]

Read the full article →