front cover of The Body of Faith
The Body of Faith
A Biological History of Religion in America
Robert C. Fuller
University of Chicago Press, 2013
The postmodern view that human experience is constructed by language and culture has informed historical narratives for decades. Yet newly emerging information about the biological body now makes it possible to supplement traditional scholarly models with insights about the bodily sources of human thought and experience.

The Body of Faith is the first account of American religious history to highlight the biological body. Robert C. Fuller brings a crucial new perspective to the study of American religion, showing that knowledge about the biological body deeply enriches how we explain dramatic episodes in American religious life. Fuller shows that the body’s genetically evolved systems—pain responses, sexual passion, and emotions like shame and fear—have persistently shaped the ways that Americans forge relationships with nature, to society, and to God.

The first new work to appear in the Chicago History of American Religion series in decades, The Body of Faith offers a truly interdisciplinary framework for explaining the richness, diversity, and endless creativity of American religious life.


front cover of The History of New Thought
The History of New Thought
From Mind Cure to Positive Thinking and the Prosperity Gospel
John S. Haller
Swedenborg Foundation Publishers, 2012

Anything is yours, if you only want it hard enough. Just think of it. ANYTHING. Try it. Try it in earnest and you will succeed. It is the operation of a mighty Law.

Does that sound like something from the latest spin-off of The Secret? In fact, those words were written in 1900 by William Walter Atkinson, the man who authored the first book on the “Law of Attraction.”

Atkinson was only one of the many and varied personalities that make up the movement known as New Thought. Composed of healers, priests, psychologists, and ordinary people from all levels of society, the proponents of New Thought have one thing in common: a belief in the power of the mind. In The History of New Thought, Haller examines the very beginnings of the movement, its early influences (including Swedish seer Emanuel Swedenborg), and how its initial emphasis on healing disease morphed into a vision of the mind’s ability to bring us whatever we desire.

While most histories of New Thought tend to focus on churches and other formal organizations, Haller reveals that New Thought has had a much broader impact on American culture. Bestselling authors from the late nineteenth century and onward sold books in the millions of copies that were eagerly read and quoted by powerful politicians and wealthy industrialists. The idea that thoughts could become reality is so embedded in American culture that we tell each other to “be positive” without ever questioning why. New Thought has become our thought.

Anyone interested in psychology, popular culture, or history will be fascinated by this exploration of a little-known facet of modern culture.

front cover of Religion And Wine
Religion And Wine
Cultural History Wine Drinking United States
Robert C. Fuller
University of Tennessee Press, 1996
Wine, more than any other food or beverage, is intimately associated with religious experience and celebratory rituals. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in American cultural history. From the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock to the Francis­cans and Jesuits who pioneered California's Mission Trail, many American religious groups have required wine to perform their sacraments and enliven their evening meals. This book tells the story of how viniculture in America was started and sustained by a broad spectrum of religious denominations. In the process, it offers new insights into the special relationship between wine production and consump­tion and the spiritual dimension of human experience. Robert Fuller's historical narrative encompasses a fascinating array of groups and individuals, and the author makes some provocative connections between the love of wine and the particularities of religious experience. For example, he speculates on the ways in which Thomas Jefferson's celebrated knowledge of wine related to his cultural sophistication and free-thinking outlook on matters of religion and spirituality. Elsewhere he describes how a number of nineteenth­-century communal groups-including the Rappites, the Amana colonies, the Mormons, and the spiritualist colony called the Brotherhood of the New Life ­helped to spread the religious use of wine across a vast new nation. Fuller describes and analyzes the role of wine drinking in promoting community solidarity and facilitating a variety of religious experiences, ranging from the warm glow of ri­tualized camaraderie to the ecstasy of immediate contact with otherwise hidden spiritual realms. He also devotes a chapter to the rise of temperance and prohibi­tionist sentiments among fundamentalist Christians and their subsequent attack on wine drinking. The book's concluding chapter features an insightful analysis of the ritual dimensions of contemporary wine drinking and wine culture. According to Fuller, the aesthetic experiences and communal affirmation that some religious groups have historically associated with the enjoyment of wine have passed into the prac­tice of popular-or "unchurched"-religion in the United States. 

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