Matthew S. Hedstrom

in The Rise of Liberal Religion

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195374490
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979141 | DOI:

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The Introduction outlines the broad themes and arguments of the book, and provides critical background in late nineteenth-century religious publishing and liberal religious intellectual life. The philosophers William James and Rufus Jones articulated approaches to religion, rooted in psychology and mysticism, that formed the basis of popular religious liberalism in the twentieth century. This liberalism developed along two lines: an ethical liberalism that used religious experience as the basis for social engagement, and a laissez-faire liberalism, most often associated with mind cure or positive thinking spiritualities, that was more individualistic and success oriented. The modernization of religious publishing after World War I, and especially the rise of a distinct religious middlebrow culture, provided the critical mechanism for the popularization of liberal religious sensibilities. These twentieth-century developments grew out of a nineteenth-century foundation in religious publishing and reading, and the broader engagement of American Protestantism with consumer capitalism.

Keywords: Rufus Jones; William James; religious publishing; middlebrow; psychology; mysticism; mind cure; positive thinking; laissez-faire liberalism; ethical liberalism

Chapter.  8915 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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