Burnsville Book Club: "Freethinkers: History of American Secularism" - S. Jacoby

We'll be discussing "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism" by Susan Jacoby. Join us for a fun, relaxed discussion and delicious food as we discuss a very important book by Susan Jacoby. "Freethinkers" is a critically acclaimed nonfiction masterpiece. Jacoby and her book were featured on PBS. Click here to see her interviewed by Bill Moyers. From Publishers Weekly: Is America really one nation under God? Not according to Pulitzer Prize–finalist Jacoby (Wild Justice, etc.), who argues that it is America's secularist "freethinkers" who formed the bedrock upon which our nation was built. Jacoby contends that it's one of "the great unresolved paradoxes" that religion occupies such an important place in a nation founded on separation of church and state. She traces the role of "freethinkers," a term first coined in the 17th century, in the formation of America from the writing of the Constitution to some of our greatest social revolutions, including abolition, feminism, labor, civil rights and the dawning of Darwin's theory of evolution. Jacoby has clearly spent much time in the library, and the result is an impressive literary achievement filled with an array of both major and minor figures from American history, like revolutionary propagandist Thomas Paine, presidents Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Robert Green Ingersoll. Her historical work is further flanked by current examples—the Bush White House in an introduction and the views of conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia in a final chapter—that crystallize her concern over secularism's waning influence. Unfortunately, Jacoby's immense research is also the book's Achilles heel. Her core mission to impress upon readers the historical struggle of freethinkers against the religious establishment is at times overwhelmed by the sheer volume of characters and vignettes she offers, many of which, frankly, are not very compelling. Still, Jacoby has done yeoman's work in crafting her message that the values of America's freethinkers belong "at the center, not in the margins" of American life.

In June we'll be discussing "Infidel" by Aayan Hirsi Ali. We'll also be taking suggestions for future book discussions. All ideas are encouraged and welcomed!

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  • Joe

    Lively conversation with intelligent people and great moderation! My wife and I had a really nice time.

    May 6, 2010

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great meet up helps with what you have read and more.

    May 6, 2010

  • A former member
    A former member

    I had a blast - thanks so much for the warm welcome :)

    May 5, 2010

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