The Free Religion Movement

David M. Robinson

in The Oxford Handbook of Transcendentalism

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780195331035
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Free Religion Movement

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  • Literary Theory and Cultural Studies
  • Literary Studies (19th Century)


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The article narrates different aspects of religious reforms and the changes that were brought about by transmitting an entirely new concept to the American society in the wake of the formation of Free Religious Association (FRA). The program of religious reform begun by the Transcendentalists was carried forward by the FRA, formed in 1865 by a group of dissident Unitarian ministers, self-described “radicals” who aspired to a naturalized, post-Christian, and universal understanding of human spirituality. They propounded a perpetually evolving and reconstituting self whose religious evolution was never wholly attained or fully completed but remaking itself always. The article states that though Transcendentalism had generated an ocean of scholarly articles and books, the free religion movement has been much less studied. The controversies surrounding the rise of the FRA were not so prominent as those surrounding Transcendentalism, and the movement remained, despite its larger aspirations, an essentially intra-Unitarian dispute.

Keywords: religious reform; Free Religious Association; human spirituality; intra-Unitarian dispute

Article.  5558 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Theory and Cultural Studies ; Literary Studies (19th Century)

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