Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

FACULTY WORKSHOP - American Atheists and Irreligious Freedom (Leigh E. Schmidt)

Thursday, November 16, 2017 - 4:30pm

Silverstein Forum, Stiteler Hall First Floor (Accessibility)
Free and open to the public / Cosponsored by the Penn Religious Studies Department and The Jack Miller Center
Discussant: Vincent Lloyd (Villanova University Dept. of Theology and Religious Studies)

All attendees are encouraged to read Prof. Schmidt's paper, available here.

THE QUESTION WHETHER AMERICAN RELIGIOUS FREEDOM included equal rights and liberties for unbelievers, infidels, and atheists was unsettled from the founding through the middle decades of the twentieth century.  In a series of Supreme Court cases stretching from 1948 through 1965, the playing field got a lot leveler for atheists, agnostics, and humanists.  But, a principle of neutrality -- that believers and unbelievers shared the same liberties and protections -- remained fraught.  The “fastidious atheist” or “devout atheist” was often still counted a nuisance by the court, and, when such irreligious objectors did succeed, they were often treated with such hostility as to make their legal victories look pyrrhic.

LEIGH E. SCHMIDT is the Edward C. Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor in the Humanities at Washington University in St. Louis. He joined the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics in 2011. He is the author of numerous books, including Hearing Things: Religion, Illusion, and the American Enlightenment (2000), which won the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in Historical Studies and the John Hope Franklin Prize of the American Studies Association; Heaven’s Bride: The Unprintable Life of Ida C. Craddock, American Mystic, Scholar, Sexologist, Martyr, and Madwoman (2010); and Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality (2005 and updated in 2012). 

All attendees are encouraged to read Prof. Schmidt's paper, available here.