Christopher G. White

in Unsettled Minds

Published by University of California Press

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780520256798
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520942721 | DOI:

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This introductory chapter sets out the purpose of the book, which is to examine the religious lives of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Americans who rejected older religious traditions and turned to scientific psychologies to help them formulate new ideas about the self and new practices concerning spiritual growth. It begins with the unsettled reflections of a group of early nineteenth-century Christians who found themselves unable to conform to their parents' evangelical Calvinism. Christians in this situation, full of self-doubt and anxious religious reflections, eventually redirected their suspicions outward, pronouncing their natal evangelicalism unhealthy, irrational, or in other ways defective. Quickly, their intense dislike for older traditions propelled them in novel directions, fueling a range of theological reformulations and emendations, and especially new views of the self and spiritual growth. The book follows their changing attitudes, aspirations, and new formulations. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.

Keywords: religious lives; Americans; religious traditions; spiritual growth; nineteenth century; Christians

Chapter.  4859 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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