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Lincoln and Religion

Lincoln and Religion

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Ferenc Morton Szasz with Margaret Connell Szasz


E-book (Other formats: Hardcover)
10 illustrations

Concise Lincoln Library


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About the Book

Abraham Lincoln’s faith has commanded more broad-based attention than that of any other American president. Although he never joined a denomination, Baptists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Episcopalians, Disciples of Christ, Spiritualists, Jews, and even atheists claim the sixteenth president as one of their own. In this concise volume, Ferenc Morton Szasz and Margaret Connell Szasz offer both an accessible survey of the development of Lincoln’s religious views and an informative launch pad for further academic inquiry. A singular key to Lincoln’s personality, especially during the presidential years, rests with his evolving faith perspective.

After surveying Lincoln’s early childhood as a Hard-Shell Baptist in Kentucky and Indiana, the authors chronicle his move from skepticism to participation in Episcopal circles during his years in Springfield, and, finally, after the death of son Eddie, to Presbyterianism. They explore Lincoln’s relationship with the nation’s faiths as president, the impact of his son Willie’s death, his adaptation of Puritan covenant theory to a nation at war, the role of prayer during his presidency, and changes in his faith as reflected in the Emancipation Proclamation and his state papers and addresses. Finally, they evaluate Lincoln’s legacy as the central figure of America’s civil religion, an image sharpened by his prominent position in American currency.

A closing essay by Richard W. Etulain traces the historiographical currents in the literature on Lincoln and religion, and the volume concludes with a compilation of Lincoln’s own words about religion.

In assessing the enigma of Lincoln’s Christianity, the authors argue that despite his lack of church membership, Lincoln lived his life through a Christian ethical framework. His years as president, dominated by the Civil War and personal loss, led Lincoln to move into a world beholden to Providence.

2015 ISHS Superior Achievement Award


Ferenc Morton Szasz taught at the University of New Mexico from 1967 until his death in 2010.  He published a dozen books, including The Day the Sun Rose Twice: The Story of the Trinity Site Nuclear Explosion, July 16, 1945; Religion in the Modern American West; and Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns: Connected Lives and Legends. His most recent book, Atomic Comics: Cartoonists Confront the Nuclear World, was selected by Choice as one of the best books published in 2012.

Margaret Connell Szasz, a professor of history at the University of New Mexico, is the author of several books, including Education and the American Indian: The Road to Self-Determination; Between Indian and White Worlds: The Cultural Broker; Indian Education in the American Colonies, 1607–1783; and Scottish Highlanders and Native Americans: Indigenous Education in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World.


'Lincoln and Religion deserves high marks for its. responsible, accessible, and engaging treatment of a complicated, but important subject."—Mark A. Noll, Journal of Illinois History

"Lincoln and Religion is an intelligently constructed work upon which conversations regarding Lincoln’s religious allegiances and implications can be aptly built."—Foreword

“This welcome addition to the Concise Lincoln Library by the late Ferenc Morton Szasz deftly picks its way through the minefield constituted by the historical controversies regarding Lincoln’s religious beliefs. It shows brilliantly how Lincoln has become the central figure in a civil religion and presents a carefully nuanced answer to the perennial question; Was Lincoln a Christian? The book is a worthy companion to Professor Szasz’s Abraham Lincoln and Robert Burns: Connected Lives and Legends, also published by Southern Illinois University Press.”—Michael Burlingame, Chancellor Naomi B. Lynn Distinguished Chair in Lincoln Studies, University of Illinois Springfield

“This book is a short, able, and important contribution to religion, Abraham Lincoln, and the Civil War. A good read, but beyond that, Richard W. Etulain provides an excellent summary of the subject from 1866 to today, and Sara Gabbard compiles great quotes from Lincoln on the topic of religion. If you are going to read a short book about the subject, this is thebook.”—Gabor S. Boritt, author of The Will of God Prevails