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Noting that college students in the 1990s are once again becoming interested in religious/spiritual phenomena, this analysis of religious humanism as persuasive discourse first touches upon the event-filled 1960s and 70s, which saw social unrest and turbulent change, much of it emanating from university students. As background, the analysis points out that during those same decades a sophisticated history-of-ideas scholarship emerged from communication scholars, joined with a humanistic interdisciplinary approach to examine the rhetorical discourse of mass movements and public campaigns. The analysis employs a theoretical model constructed by Bill Balthrop (1975) to examine the humanist-theist controversy within early 20th century Unitarianism as a rhetorical movement having enduring significance in the intellectual history of American religious experience. The analysis discusses: (1) the structure of the Unitarian group; (2) religious humanism as an emergent scientific perspective (giving attention to the discourse of its leaders John H. Dietrich, Curtis W. Reese, and Charles Francis Potter); (3) its membership and organization; and (4) agents of social control. The analysis concludes with a concise discussion of existentialism in American religious thought and with the hope that studying religious rhetoric in history will help today's students resolve their own ideas about life in the future. Contains 114 endnotes. (NKA)

Descriptors: Discourse Communities, Higher Education, Humanism, Intellectual History, Leaders, Persuasive Discourse, Religion, Religious Organizations, Rhetorical Criticism, Social Values, United States History

Autor: Chandler, Daniel Ross


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