A much-maligned minority throughout American history, atheists have been cast as a threat to the nation's moral fabric, barred from holding public office, and branded as irreligious misfits in a nation chosen by God. Yet village atheists--as these godless freethinkers came to be known by the close of the nineteenth century--were also hailed for their gutsy dissent from stultifying pieties and for posing a necessary secularist challenge to the entanglements of church and state. In Village Atheists, Leigh Eric Schmidt explores the complex cultural terrain that unbelievers have long had to navigate in their fight to secure equal rights and liberties in American public life. He rebuilds the history of American secularism from the ground up, giving flesh and blood to these outspoken infidels.
Village Atheists demonstrates that the secularist vision for the United States proved to be anything but triumphant in a country where faith and citizenship were--and still are--closely interwoven.
About the Author
Leigh Eric Schmidt is the Edward C. Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. His books include Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality and Heaven's Bride: The Unprintable Life of Ida C. Craddock, American Mystic, Scholar, Sexologist, Martyr, and Madwoman.