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Prophesies of GodlessnessPredictions of America's Iminent Secularization from the Puritans to Postmodernity$
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Charles T Mathewes and Christopher McKnight Nichols

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195342536

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195342536.001.0001

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 After the Civil War

 After the Civil War

Auguste Comte's Theory of History Crosses the Atlantic

(p.95) 5 After the Civil War
Prophesies of Godlessness

Andrew Witmer

Oxford University Press

During the second half of the nineteenth century, American intellectuals found much to argue over in the writings of Auguste Comte. A French social theorist generally credited as the founder of modern sociology, Comte grounded his Positivist philosophy in a theory of history predicting the demise of theism and the triumph of naturalistic science and humanistic religion. Debates over Positivism peaked in the United States between the 1860s and 1880s, and became entangled with arguments over Darwinism and the alleged battle between religion and science. Most Americans dismissed Comte's predictions that belief in God would vanish, but his theories won over a small group of important thinkers, clothed Enlightenment attacks on traditional religion in the garb of scientific neutrality and historical inevitability, spurred on the academic secularizers who sought to reduce religion's public influence, and emerged during the middle decades of the twentieth century as a commonplace of modern sociology.

Keywords:   Auguste Comte, Sociology, Positivism, Darwinism, “Battle between religion and science”

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