Review of God and the Atlantic: America, Europe, and the Religious Divide, by Thomas Albert Howard.
Howard contributes a superb scholarly study on the “transatlantic religious gap” between European and American cultures. His study explores the complexity of European attitudes and understandings of religion and politics and their prevailing difficulties when used to interpret American life and politics resulting in the religious divide. He suggests that understanding European attitudes to “the American experiment in religious freedom” may be drawn from placing their negative commentary, an intentional tool of his methodology, within the construct of Charles Taylor’s (1931 - ) “social imaginaries” and then viewed through their history of feudalism and established churches as the “environing backgrounds of thought.”
After a well-defined introduction, Howard begins supporting his model with an engaging tour of “negative assessments of American religious life” made by European writers, categorized broadly as traditionalists and secularists. He contrasts these insights with those from Philip Schaff (1819-1893) and Jacques Maritain (1882-1973) in whom, beyond their own contrasts, Howard finds a common resonance in their perceptions of United States’ voluntary principle in religion and church-state relations. From these contrasts, rather than a simple transatlantic divide, the author arrives at two versions of secularism operating on different sides of the Atlantic with some sympathizers on each side: a dialectical version, composed of the traditionalists (and secularists), and a double helix version, composed of religious pluralism and civil government. Howard’s enjoyable study is a very nice addition on intellectual history for the academic library.
Pearson, Andrew L. Review of God and the Atlantic: America, Europe, and the Religious Divide, by Thomas Albert Howard. Religious Studies Review 38 (September 2012): 185.