Dominic Erdozain

Dominic Erdozain

Dominic Erdozain

Dominic Erdozain is Visiting Scholar at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Before moving to Atlanta, he served as Lecturer in the History of Christianity at King’s College London, where he remains a visiting researcher. His interests include the history of secularization, evangelicalism in the English-speaking world, and the interface between history, philosophy, and theology.

Erdozain’s conference paper, "Karl Marx and the Invention of the Secular," builds on his 2015 book The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx.  He argues that many of the strongest modern critics of Christianity, including Pierre Bayle, Spinoza, Voltaire, and Marx, were working with categories, such as conscience, that had been shaped by Christianity.



William Morris. A Dream of John Ball and A King’s Lesson. Hammersmith : Kelmscott Press, 1892.<br />

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William Morris. A Dream of John Ball and A King’s Lesson. Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1892.

Like Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Morris’s A Dream of John Ball uses a time-travelling narrator to compare a failed fourteenth-century peasants’ revolt with nineteenth-century struggles against capitalism. In so doing, the novel also compares the orthodox Catholic faith of the eponymous John Ball with the narrator’s secular faith. The engraving at the beginning of Morris’s novel—and the famous rhyme serving as its caption—make Morris’s concern for social and economic justice clear.

When Adam delved and Eve span, who then was the gentleman?

Letter from Matthew Arnold to Mr. Wescott. 8 April [1870].

(Click to see letter and transcription)

Letter from Matthew Arnold to Mr. Westcott. 8 April [1870].

Matthew Arnold, poet, writer, and school inspector, thanks Brooke Foss Westcott, biblical scholar and Bishop of Durham, for the gift of his sermons.

Many thanks for the sermons which I am very glad to possess, and of your own giving. The ordination sermon I have already read, and with great pleasure and agreement.

Matthew Arnold. Literature and Dogma. London: Smith, Elder, and Company, 1873.  <br />

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Matthew Arnold. Literature and Dogma. London: Smith, Elder, and Company, 1873. 

In this volume, Arnold argues in favor of a view that contemporary readers might identify as a form of secularization.  Like many of the authors Erdozain considers in The Soul of Doubt, Arnold’s argument is motivated by a concern for a more authentic Christianity—one that emphasizes using culture and literature “in the interest of religion itself” rather than deemphasizing culture for the sake of proper Christian conduct. 

So that conduct is impaired by the want of science and culture; and our theologians really suffer, not from having too much science, but from having too little.

Isaiah of Jerusalem in the authorized English version, with an introduction, corrections and notes by Matthew Arnold. London: Macmillan and company, 1883.<br />

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Isaiah of Jerusalem in the Authorized English Version, with An Introduction, Corrections and Notes by Matthew Arnold. London: Macmillan and Company, 1883.

Arnold’s introduction to his translation of the Book of Isaiah argues that education and religion are aimed at bringing people “to a certain temper and behavior.”  For this formation to occur, the reader’s affections must be engaged by a force of beauty or of sentiment.  Accordingly, Arnold’s translation aims at getting Isaiah enjoyed.

…my paramount object here is to get Isaiah enjoyed; and the right way to get a great author enjoyed is to raise not as much discussion as possible over his meaning, but as little as possible.

Francis Power Cobbe. Dawning Lights: An Inquiry concerning the secular results of the new reformation.  London: Williams and Norgate, 1882.  <br />

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Frances Power Cobbe. Dawning Lights: An Inquiry Concerning the Secular Results of the New Reformation.  London: Williams and Norgate, 1882. 

There is a sense in which Cobbe’s book on religious developments in the 19th century is the inverse of Erdozain’s The Soul of Doubt.  Whereas the latter is concerned with the religious motives undergirding secularization from the reformation to the 19th century, the former’s text surveys the secular results of what she terms “the new reformation.”


- Exhibition Text by Karl Aho

Dominic Erdozain