The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief

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Only a century ago, almost all state universities held compulsory chapel services, and some required Sunday church attendance as well. In fact, state-sponsored chapel services were commonplace until the World War II era, and as late as the 1950s, it was not unusual for leading schools to refer to themselves as "Christian" institutions. Today, the once pervasive influence of religion in the intellectual and cultural life of America's preeminent colleges and universities has all but vanished. In The Soul of the American University, Marsden explores how, and why, these dramatic changes occurred.
Far from a lament for a lost golden age when mainline Protestants ruled American education, The Soul of the American University offers a penetrating critique of that era, surveying the role of Protestantism in higher education from the founding of Harvard in the 1630s through the collapse of the WASP establishment in the 1960s. Marsden tells the stories of many of our pace-setting universities at defining moments in their histories, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Chicago. He recreates the religious feuds that accompanied Yale's transition from a flagship evangelical college to a university, and the dramatic debate over the place of religion in higher education between Harvard's President Charles Eliot and Princeton's President James McCosh. Marsden's analysis ranges from debates over Darwinism and higher critics of the Bible, to the roles of government and wealthy contributors, the impact of changing student mores, and even the religious functions of college football. He argues persuasively that the values of "liberalism" and "tolerance" that the establishment championed and used to marginalize Christian fundamentalism and Roman Catholicism eventually and perhaps inevitably led to its own disappearance from the educational milieu, as nonsectarian came to mean exclusively secular.
While the largely voluntary disestablishment of religion may appear in many respects commendable, Marsden believes that it has nonetheless led to the infringement of the free exercise of religion in most of academic life. In effect, nonbelief has been established as the only valid academic perspective. In a provocative final chapter, Marsden spells out his own prescription for change, arguing that just as the academy has made room for feminist and multicultural perspectives, so should there be room once again for traditional religious viewpoints. A thoughtful blend of historical narrative and searching analysis, The Soul of the American University exemplifies what it advocates: that religious perspectives can provide a legitimate contribution to the highest level of scholarship.

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About the Author:


George M. Marsden is Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. His many books include Fundamentalism and American Culture, The Secularization of the Academy (edited with Bradley J. Longfield), and Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism.

From Kirkus Reviews:

In pleading for universities to give religious teachings the same respect they give feminist and multicultural perspectives, Marsden (History/Notre Dame, The Secularization of the Academy, etc.) cogently argues that major American universities, founded essentially as religious institutions, are now so hostile to religion that they largely exclude religious viewpoints. Marsden reminds the reader that in the 19th century, while ``the United States was formally pluralistic, its cultural centers had never seen a time when Protestantism was not dominant.'' Indeed, most late 19th-century colleges and universities actively promoted evangelical Christianity. Strikingly, by 1920, evangelical Protestantism had largely disappeared from the leading universities, as establishment Protestants used values of secular humanism and buzzwords like ``tolerance'' and ``liberalism'' to marginalize both fundamentalist Protestantism and Catholicism. This ``disestablishmentarism'' of religious perspectives, together with the ``universalism'' of the mainstream Protestantism that identified itself with secular culture and forced other religious positions to the periphery, ironically contributed to the establishment of nonbelief as the only valid viewpoint. The same arguments and attitudes used by liberal Protestants to exclude other religious perspectives were used to exclude normative religious teaching of any kind. Marsden argues that while the disestablishment of a universal religious culture is probably a positive development, the prevailing secularism actually constrains the free exercise of religion. The academy should make room for traditional religious viewpoints, he says, just as it has done for other perspectives that go against the grain of mainstream scholarship. First-rate historical analysis, joined with a compelling argument for giving God a voice on campus, although Marsden, limiting his discussion to ``great universities,'' does gloss over relevant areas: influential Jewish or Catholic institutions, most Southern and African-American colleges, and conservative Protestant colleges. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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9780195070460: The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 1996. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.Only a century ago, almost all state universities held compulsory chapel services, and some required Sunday church attendance as well. In fact, state-sponsored chapel services were commonplace until the World War II era, and as late as the 1950s, it was not unusual for leading schools to refer to themselves as Christian institutions. Today, the once pervasive influence of religion in the intellectual and cultural life of America s preeminent colleges and universities has all but vanished. In The Soul of the American University, Marsden explores how, and why, these dramatic changes occurred. Far from a lament for a lost golden age when mainline Protestants ruled American education, The Soul of the American University offers a penetrating critique of that era, surveying the role of Protestantism in higher education from the founding of Harvard in the 1630s through the collapse of the WASP establishment in the 1960s. Marsden tells the stories of many of our pace-setting universities at defining moments in their histories, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Chicago. He recreates the religious feuds that accompanied Yale s transition from a flagship evangelical college to a university, and the dramatic debate over the place of religion in higher education between Harvard s President Charles Eliot and Princeton s President James McCosh. Marsden s analysis ranges from debates over Darwinism and higher critics of the Bible, to the roles of government and wealthy contributors, the impact of changing student mores, and even the religious functions of college football. He argues persuasively that the values of liberalism and tolerance that the establishment championed and used to marginalize Christian fundamentalism and Roman Catholicism eventually and perhaps inevitably led to its own disappearance from the educational milieu, as nonsectarian came to mean exclusively secular. While the largely voluntary disestablishment of religion may appear in many respects commendable, Marsden believes that it has nonetheless led to the infringement of the free exercise of religion in most of academic life. In effect, nonbelief has been established as the only valid academic perspective. In a provocative final chapter, Marsden spells out his own prescription for change, arguing that just as the academy has made room for feminist and multicultural perspectives, so should there be room once again for traditional religious viewpoints. A thoughtful blend of historical narrative and searching analysis, The Soul of the American University exemplifies what it advocates: that religious perspectives can provide a legitimate contribution to the highest level of scholarship. Seller Inventory # AAV9780195106503

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 1996. Paperback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Only a century ago, almost all state universities held compulsory chapel services, and some required Sunday church attendance as well. In fact, state-sponsored chapel services were commonplace until the World War II era, and as late as the 1950s, it was not unusual for leading schools to refer to themselves as Christian institutions. Today, the once pervasive influence of religion in the intellectual and cultural life of America s preeminent colleges and universities has all but vanished. In The Soul of the American University, Marsden explores how, and why, these dramatic changes occurred. Far from a lament for a lost golden age when mainline Protestants ruled American education, The Soul of the American University offers a penetrating critique of that era, surveying the role of Protestantism in higher education from the founding of Harvard in the 1630s through the collapse of the WASP establishment in the 1960s. Marsden tells the stories of many of our pace-setting universities at defining moments in their histories, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, the University of Michigan, Johns Hopkins, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Chicago. He recreates the religious feuds that accompanied Yale s transition from a flagship evangelical college to a university, and the dramatic debate over the place of religion in higher education between Harvard s President Charles Eliot and Princeton s President James McCosh. Marsden s analysis ranges from debates over Darwinism and higher critics of the Bible, to the roles of government and wealthy contributors, the impact of changing student mores, and even the religious functions of college football. He argues persuasively that the values of liberalism and tolerance that the establishment championed and used to marginalize Christian fundamentalism and Roman Catholicism eventually and perhaps inevitably led to its own disappearance from the educational milieu, as nonsectarian came to mean exclusively secular. While the largely voluntary disestablishment of religion may appear in many respects commendable, Marsden believes that it has nonetheless led to the infringement of the free exercise of religion in most of academic life. In effect, nonbelief has been established as the only valid academic perspective. In a provocative final chapter, Marsden spells out his own prescription for change, arguing that just as the academy has made room for feminist and multicultural perspectives, so should there be room once again for traditional religious viewpoints. A thoughtful blend of historical narrative and searching analysis, The Soul of the American University exemplifies what it advocates: that religious perspectives can provide a legitimate contribution to the highest level of scholarship. Seller Inventory # AAV9780195106503

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