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Lincoln RevisitedNew Insights from the Lincoln Forum$
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John Y. Simon, Harold Holzer, and Dawn Vogel

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780823227365

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823227365.001.0001

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Varieties of Religious Experience: Abraham and Mary Lincoln

Varieties of Religious Experience: Abraham and Mary Lincoln

Chapter:
(p.105) CHAPTER 6 Varieties of Religious Experience: Abraham and Mary Lincoln
Source:
Lincoln Revisited
Author(s):

John Y. Simon

Harold Holzer

Dawn Vogel

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823227365.003.0006

In 1902, William James, younger brother of Henry and Alice James, veteran of the Civil War and student of religion and medicine, delivered a series of lectures at the University of Edinburgh entitled “Varieties of Religious Experience.” His audience, made up of conservative members of the Church of Scotland, sat stunned by his audacious approach to religion. This chapter uses James's understanding of religion as a point of departure for a discussion of both Abraham Lincoln and Mary Lincoln's religion. It claims that both Lincolns demonstrated the validity of James's claims — Lincoln to the extent that he intensified his belief in God's omnipotence even as he remained “unchurched” in his commitment to the sacraments. Meanwhile Mary, who at the beginning of her life was more conventional about spiritual matters, changed her understanding of a transcendent reference point from orthodox Presbyterianism to briefly Episcopalianism and then to spiritualism.

Keywords:   William James, religious experience, Church of Scotland, religion, Abraham Lincoln, Mary Lincoln, God, omnipotence, Presbyterianism, spiritualism

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