Chapter

Secularizing American Higher Education: The Case of Early American Sociology

Christian Smith

in The Secular Revolution

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2003 | ISBN: 9780520230002
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936706 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520230002.003.0002
Secularizing American Higher Education: The Case of Early American Sociology

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This chapter explains the secularization of American higher education by employing the theoretical perspective of secular movements. It presents accounts of the marginalization of religion and morality in American higher education as well as an analysis of secular movements that contribute to the understanding of the secularization of American higher education. The chapter reveals that a certain group of largely irreligious early American sociologists worked actively to discredit the religious claims and concerns of their perceived competitors and was instrumental in making religion irrelevant in American higher education. Thus, it supports the larger claim that the historical secularization of American higher education was not an abstract, natural, and inevitable by-product of some evolutionary modernization process. Rather, it was the achievement of intentional agents, influenced by particular ideologies and interests, seeking to enhance their own status and authority by actively displacing the competing status and authority of religious actors.

Keywords: secularization; American higher education; secular movements; religion; sociologists

Chapter.  28353 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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