Communities of Dissent: A History of Alternative Religions in America
Stein, Stephen J. Communities of Dissent: A History of Alternative Religions in America. Oxford University Press, 2003.
Stein presents a rarely heard voice in the midst of religious debates, defending not only the importance of allowing place for minority religions but also their ultimate value to society as a whole. Christian Science is one of the ‘alternative religions’ he studies in the context of religious dissent in America. “Dissent in a political context has been an honored tradition in America, and we celebrate the founders as patriots,” (ix) but religious dissent often resulted in opposition. In fact, religious dissenters have suffered immensely at the hands of insiders or the mainstream. Mary Baker Eddy, he explains, was a prime example of immense innovation in 19th-century America that took advantage of the constitutional principle of the prohibition of an established state religion. The door was open to the free marketplace of religious ideas. In an age of women’s political protests, Eddy’s religious movement arose from the personal circumstances of its founder and empowered women in important ways. Her followers then and now accept her “distinctive system of religious thought and the challenge of demonstrating its truthfulness in daily life” (98). Stein argues that such outsider groups, though often ridiculed and even persecuted, contribute substantially to the vitality and creativity of the nation’s religious life.
ISBN-13 (Softcover): 978-0195158250