Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Andrew Feffer




socialist, christian, socialism, secular, movement


The central argument of this paper is that the mainstream of the American, Christian socialist movement gradually reoriented itself such that, by the time of the First World War, it had essentially merged with the secular socialist movement. This can be seen both in the nature of socialist organizations (namely in the almost seamless integration of Christian socialism and secular socialism in turn of the century American socialist organizations and newspapers) and in the fundamental shift in the character of Christian socialist ideas, as exhibited by the shift away from a world view which held socialism to be a means by which to strengthen the ideal of theocracy towards a new perspective which viewed Christianity itself as a means by which to achieve a better (i.e. socialist) world which need not be theocratic in character. The shift from religious socialism to secular socialism was facilitated by two key factors. The first was a gradual acceptance of enlightenment tenets, particularly those dealing with the impact of environment on human character, by the mainstream of American religion. The second factor leading towards a rapprochement between the religious and secular forces was the fact that, despite the enlightenment derived anti-clericalism found in much of the early secular literature, there was a fundamental commonality in the ultimate goals of both movements owing in no small part to the fact that the doctrine of secular socialism (indeed of secularism itself) was in small part derived from the common root of the People’s Reformation which, as this paper shows, was also the wellspring of the Christian socialist movement. The most important sources for this paper were the writings of the Christian socialists themselves which were gleaned from compilations of socialist documents (Fried’s documentary histories being particularly useful) extant works of Christian and socialist theory, and newspaper archives. The secondary sources were a variety of works, some dealing directly with the question of Christian socialism and others dealing with side points (escapist religious revivalism for example) which are important to contextualize the Christian socialist movement.