Skip to main content
  • Book
  • © 2018

The Religious Left in Modern America

Doorkeepers of a Radical Faith

Palgrave Macmillan
  • Offers a comparative and long-term perspective on the intersecting histories of religious radicalism and the secular left

  • Challenges the perception that religion is antagonistic to democratic politics and culture

  • Chapters explore a diverse range of religious groups that contributed to the key social movements of the twentieth century

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements (PSHSM)

Buying options

eBook USD 39.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-319-73120-9
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 139.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Table of contents (14 chapters)

  1. Front Matter

    Pages i-xv
  2. Introduction

    • Leilah Danielson, Marian Mollin, Doug Rossinow
    Pages 1-17
  3. Dorothy Day, Religion, and the Left

    • Nicholas Rademacher
    Pages 81-99
  4. Ita Ford and the Spirit of Social Change

    • Marian Mollin
    Pages 255-276
  5. Global Encounters and the Evangelical Left

    • David R. Swartz
    Pages 277-294
  6. Back Matter

    Pages 295-303

About this book

This edited collection of exciting new scholarship provides comprehensive coverage of the broad sweep of twentieth century religious activism on the American left. The volume covers a diversity of perspectives, including Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish history, and important essays on African-American, Latino, and women’s spirituality. Taken together, these essays offer a comparative and long-term perspective on religious groups and social movements often studied in isolation, and fully integrate faith-based action into the history of progressive social movements and politics in the modern United States. It becomes clear that throughout the twentieth century, religious faith has served as a powerful motivator and generator for activism, not just as on the right, where observers regularly link religion and politics, but on the left. This volume will appeal to historians of modern American politics, religion, and social movements, religious studies scholars, and contemporary activists.


  • Radical
  • Secular
  • Protestant
  • Social movement
  • Civil rights
  • Feminism
  • Socialism
  • Democratic
  • Twentieth century


“All articles are clearly written and break new ground. Most are steeped in primary sources. This volume is one good place for historians of the religious left to begin.” (Justus D. Doenecke, Anglican and Episcopal History, Vol. 89 (3), September, 2020)

“These essays present a bold and refreshing way of examining social reform. … The collection presents many voices, movements, issues, and perspectives that have long been ignored or shunted to the side in the historical narrative. … Book is highly recommended for scholars and graduate students engaged in the study of religion and social change in America.” (A. J. Scopino, Religious Studies Review, Vol. 46 (1), March, 2020)

“The editors’ work is ultimately an invitation for scholars to pick up on the insights of these well-written essays and integrate them into their teaching and research. The breadth and depth of the collection certainly makes it a valuable resource for historians of every field.” (Christopher D. Cantwell, The Journal of American History, Vol. 106 (3), December, 2019)

“If you’re as depressed and despairing as I have been feeling lately, this is a good book to read. …it will remind you of the long arc of history which doesn’t necessarily always bend towards justice, but can be bent that way by those imbued with vision, passion, and organizing skills. … Each essay is carefully crafted, succinct, well researched, and thoughtfully argued.” (Paul Harvey, Reading Religion,, August, 2018)

“The Religious Left in Modern America: Doorkeepers of a Radical Faith aim to set the record straight, challenging misconceptions about American religion, radicalism, and culture. … The Religious Left in Modern America have done a great service by opening up an overdue conversation about the interplay of religion and radicalism.” (Vaneesa Cook,, October, 2018)

“At long last, prayers for a comprehensive and critical study on the religious left in 20th-century U.S. politics and society have been answered with Danielson’s, Mollin’s, and Rossinow’s The Religious Left in Modern America. This superb collection focuses not only on the contributions of Protestants, but also of Catholics and Jews, to struggles for racial equality, economic justice, peace, and human rights at home and abroad.  Bringing together an outstanding group of historians and religious studies scholars, this volume will help set the agenda for the emerging scholarship in the field for years to come.” (Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, University of Wisconsin-Madison; author of American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas)

“This is a splendid collection of essays by fine historians about a vital subject that has been hiding in plain sight far too long. In the United States, religious belief has been as essential to the ideas and actions of the liberal and radical left as it has been to those of the right. Anyone who cares about the thorny, inescapable marriage of faith and politics must read this book.” (Michael Kazin, Georgetown University; author of War Against War: The American Fight for Peace, 1914-1918; editor, Dissent magazine)

“Cutting across faith traditions and the entire twentieth century, glimpsing radical social gospels in local and global contexts, and political circumstances of sweeping significance, The Religious Left in Modern America is an important and timely reminder that a dynamic religious left has always operated at the heart of American life. This is the most comprehensive and impressive study of its kind.” (Darren Dochuk, University of Notre Dame; author of From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism)

Editors and Affiliations

  • History Department, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

    Leilah Danielson

  • Department of History, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, USA

    Marian Mollin

  • Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo, Blindern, Norway

    Doug Rossinow

About the editors

Leilah Danielson is Professor of History at Northern Arizona University, USA.  She has written extensively on the role of religion and race in left politics and the peace movement, and is the author of American Gandhi: A.J. Muste and the History of Radicalism in the Twentieth Century (2014). 


Marian Mollin is Associate Professor of History at Virginia Tech, USA. She is the author of Radical Pacifism in Modern America: Egalitarianism and Protest. Her current book project, The Power of Faith: Understanding the Life and Death of Sister Ita Ford, explores connections between gender, religion, and politics in the postwar era.


Doug Rossinow teaches history at the University of Oslo, Norway. He is the author of The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America (1998) and Visions of Progress: The Left-Liberal Tradition in America (2007), among other works.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: The Religious Left in Modern America

  • Book Subtitle: Doorkeepers of a Radical Faith

  • Editors: Leilah Danielson, Marian Mollin, Doug Rossinow

  • Series Title: Palgrave Studies in the History of Social Movements

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: History, History (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-319-73119-3

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-10318-7

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-319-73120-9

  • Series ISSN: 2634-6559

  • Series E-ISSN: 2634-6567

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XV, 303

  • Number of Illustrations: 1 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: US History, History of Religion, Political History, Social History, Modern History

Buying options

eBook USD 39.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-319-73120-9
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book USD 49.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book USD 139.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)