Recently, Civil War religious history has flourished but also bifurcated between scholarship focused on religion’s instrumental effects and scholarship focused on religion’s theological content. In the 1980s, the concept of civil religion inspired important studies of religion’s causal role in the outbreak, progress, and consequences of the war. By the sesquicentennial, historiography’s antiwar turn had called civil religion into ill repute. Meanwhile, some scholars began to attend to theological ideas, especially providentialism. Currently, tensions persist between scholarship that focuses on what religion did and scholarship centered on what religion was in the interior lives of believers. Each approach carries risks—the former of reducing religion to a utilitarian role its adherents would not recognize, the latter of stripping belief of its context and obscuring its impact on events—but navigating the tensions between these risks may offer insight into how religion helped Civil War Americans make meaning of the conflict.


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pp. 373-386
Launched on MUSE
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