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This book studies the concept of a 'self-evident' God in American legal thought from the Revolution to the present.
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Self-evident truths was a profound concept used by the drafters of the American Declaration of Independence to insist on their rights and freedom from oppressive government. How did this Enlightenment notion of self-evident human rights come to be used in this historic document and what is its true meaning? In The Declaration of Independence and God, Owen Anderson traces the concept of a self-evident creator through America's legal history. Starting from the Declaration of Independence, Anderson considers both challenges to belief in God from thinkers like Thomas Paine and American Darwinists, as well as modifications to the concept of God by theologians like Charles Finney and Paul Tillich. Combining history, philosophy, and law in a unique focus, this book opens exciting new avenues for the study of America's legal history."
About the Author
Owen Anderson is an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. His books include The Natural Moral Law: The Good After Modernity (2013) and The Clarity of God's Existence (2008), which study the ethics of belief in God, how God can be known, and the knowledge of God as the highest good.
1. "This volume deepens our understanding of the foundations of our basic beliefs by analyzing the metaphysical and ethical foundations of the Declaration of Independence. Scholars and citizens alike will benefit from this subtle inquiry into the philosophical and theological underpinnings of that text. One might have thought there was nothing new and persuasive to say about the Declaration, but Anderson s excellent volume proves that wrong."
G. Alan Tarr, Board of Governors Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University, New Jersey"
2. "Anderson s book is a fast-paced, enthralling tour through the history of American religious thought from the Puritans to the present day, with the varying understandings of the preamble to the Declaration of Independence as the unifying thread. Anderson skillfully ties together the fundamental questions in epistemology ( we hold these truths to be self-evident ), metaphysics ( created equal ), political theory ( inalienable rights ), and ethics ( the pursuit of happiness ), as seen through the lens of America s evolving theological consensus."
Robert Koons, Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas, Austin"
3. "Owen Anderson s The Declaration of Independence and God weaves a fine narrative. Political thinkers, philosophers and theologians such as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Paul Tillich, Charles Finney and John Cobb, to name only a few, are highlighted as he guides readers through key patterns of American thought in its intertwined religious and legal history. Anderson illuminates how philosophical assumptions, in particular skepticism, have informed the Supreme Court as it has decided major cases involving religious liberty and abortion. Throughout the book he uses the language of the Declaration of Independence, America s creed as he calls it, to investigate its metaphysics and ethics and unpack the meaning of God and self-evident'. One of the book s provocative contributions is to chart a course between Christian and secular interpretations of the Declaration by considering seriously the common Enlightenment ground of natural religion from which it springs."
Paul Kerry, Associate Visiting Research Fellow, Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford and Associate Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Utah"
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