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God-Fearing Liberals' Role In Shaping America

Scholar Amy Kittelstrom argues that being liberal doesn't mean not being religious or spiritual.q
Flickr Photo/Madison (CC BY NC 2.0)
Scholar Amy Kittelstrom argues that being liberal doesn't mean not being religious or spiritual.

When we call someone liberal, do we imply that they are not religious or spiritual? Today’s speaker says we shouldn’t.

In her new book “The Religion of Democracy,” scholar Amy Kittelstrom chronicles seven liberals who influenced early American democracy and helped guide its progress -- and did so with their religious values firmly in tow.

Historically, the English Reformation caused political and theological shifts, the rise of common law and universal values, and the sharing of new knowledge and ideas among scholars. It made possible a liberality of thinking that led to the Age of Enlightenment and the rebirth of democracy.

Kittelstrom posits an “American Reformation,” which resulted in further political and religious shifts away from orthodoxy and towards the values of equality, liberty and democracy. She says moral values were crucial to the process, and clearly derived from religious roots. She explores this movement from the first Boston liberals through the 20th century, finding evidence of the ties between liberalism and faith in the struggle for democracy.

Kittelstrom is an associate professor of history at Sonoma State University. She specializes in nineteenth-century American thinkers and their sociopolitical context. She is the author of “The Religion of Democracy: Seven Liberals and the American Moral Tradition.”

Kittelstrom spoke at The Elliott Bay Book Company on July 7.  Thanks to Jennie Cecil Moore for our recording.

Photo credit: "be a good american...follow blindly," by Madisonon flickr (CC BY NC 2.0)

Year started with KUOW: 2006