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Devotional Activism: Public Religion, Innovation and Culture in the Nineteenth-Century
by Richard Schaefer
St. Augustine's Press, 2023
Paper: 978-1-58731-187-1 | eISBN: 978-1-58731-188-8

Modern history has not been neutral in telling the story of religion. Since it presumes the centrality of human motives and machinations as the one and only means of explicating the unfolding of ‘events’, it has helped set the terms for what counts as a viable motive and what does not, and this is evident in the systematic unmasking of religion as only really ever about ‘something else’. By distilling more substantive/primary economic, political or other kinds of motives from the detritus of ‘religion’, the latter is thus consigned to the past as the primitive husk of more substantive and rational ways of thinking and acting. As a set of historical case studies, the essays collected here forgo that tendency, and suggest different possibilities for conceptualizing the fate of religion in the modern world. They chart a different course, one of faith and self-assertion.

The essays take up a variety of episodes from modern European and American history and explore, from various angles, three interrelated themes: 'public religion', and the role of Catholicism as a determined critic of modernity; religion as an impetus for innovation; and the tendency to reduce religion to culture.

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