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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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 The Gilded Age and Progressive Era

 The Gilded Age and Progressive Era

Mastery, Modern Doubt, and the Costs of Progress

(p.113) 6 The Gilded Age and Progressive Era
Prophesies of Godlessness

Christopher McKnight Nichols (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines three important strands of progressive thought in the late nineteenth century to reveal the tensions between ideas about progress, religion, and science, and resulting predictions about America's religious future. This chapter first delineates a populist‐secular group of thinkers, exemplified by Robert Ingersoll, “the great agnostic” proponent of freethinking, whose prophecies blended the older jeremiad form with a heightened emphasis on atheistical science and Enlightment rationality. The second strand of thought explored in this chapter came from the ranks of progressive intellectuals, represented in part by the powerful pragmatic philosophy of religion developed by William James in his book, Varieties of Religious Experience. Finally, this chapter argues for a third diverse group comprised largely of ministers and social gospel activists, such as Walter Rauschenbusch, who attempted to reform the nation along explicitly Christian lines.

Keywords:   progressivism, Progressive Era, Gilded Age, social gospel, modern doubt, mastery, costs of progress, freethinking, atheism, agnosticism, pragmatism, Varieties of Religious Experience, Robert Ingersoll, William James, Walter Rauschenbusch, Walter Lippmann, Herbert Croly, Henry George

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