Abstract

Throughout its history, the United States has been a major site for the accommodation of Protestant Christianity with the Enlightenment. This accommodation has been driven by two closely related but distinct processes: the demystification of religion's cognitive claims by scientific advances, exemplified by the Higher Criticism in Biblical scholarship and the Darwinian revolution in natural history; and the demographic diversification of society, placing Protestants in the increasingly intimate company of Americans who did not share a Protestant past and thus inspiring doubts about the validity of inherited ideas and practices for the entire human species. The accommodation of Protestant Christianity with the Enlightenment will continue to hold a place among American narratives as long as “diversity” and “science” remain respected values, and as long as the population includes a substantial number of Protestants. If you think that time has passed, look around you.

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