Throughout history, governments have attempted to control religious organizations and limit religious freedom. However, over the past two hundred years the world has witnessed an expansion of religious liberty. What explains this rise in religious freedom? Anthony Gill argues that political leaders are more likely to allow religious freedom when such laws affect their ability to stay in power, and/or when religious freedoms are seen to enhance the economic well-being of their country.
1. Introduction: of liberty, laws, religion, and regulation; 2. The political origins of religious liberty; 3. Colonial British America; 4. Mexico and Latin America; 5. The Eastern Bloc and the Baltics (with Cheryl Zilinskas); 6. We gather together: the consequences of religious liberty.
Winner, 2008 Distinguished Book Award, Section on Religion, American Sociological Association
"Using engaging historical accounts and compelling theoretical arguments, Anthony Gill reveals that religious liberty is neither a mishap of history nor the inevitable consequence of secular states. Instead, he uncovers the motives and self-interests of politicians, religionists, and many others supporting religious freedoms around the globe and over time. A must read for anyone interested in the origins of civil liberties."
Roger Finke, Penn State University
"Anthony Gill has done us all an enormous service in this beautifully written and intricately theorized book. Building on past research which identifies religious regulation as the key to understanding secularization, Gill takes a giant step forward to tell us why and how religious regulation occurs. He turns popular conceptions about the nature of religious liberty on their head to reveal the fascinating political mechanisms which determine church-state relationships. This monumental contribution to our understanding of the politics of religion absolutely invigorates current thinking on the topic and opens up multiple paths to future research discoveries. I am already pondering which of Gill’s many insights I could rob."
Paul Froese, Baylor University
"The most important book ever written on religious liberty is also a delight to read."
Rodney Stark, Baylor University