Christopher McKnight Nichols ’00 has co-edited and co-authored (with Charles Mathewes) a challenging essay collection, Prophesies of Godlessness: Predictions of America’s Imminent Secularization from the Puritans to the Present (Oxford University Press, 2008). The book considers the similar expectations of religious and moral change voiced by major American thinkers from the time of the Puritans to today. Generations of Americans, from colonial times to the post-modern present, have witnessed or predicted the coming of “godlessness” of American society.
The essay collection examines the history of these prophesies, and each chapter explores a certain era, a particular individual, a community of thought, and changing conceptions of secularization. Among the subjects addressed are: Thomas Jefferson’s philosophy of history and the future of American Christianity; Abraham Lincoln, William T. Sherman, and evangelical Protestantism during the Civil War; World War 1 and after—godlessness and the Scopes Trial; and secularization and prophesies of freedom during the Sixties.
Nichols is currently a postdoctoral fellow in U.S. history at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.