We look forward to seeing you on your next visit to the library. Find a location near you.

Strange gods: a secular history of conversion

Book Cover
Average Rating
New York : Pantheon Books, [2016].
Physical Desc:
viii, 464 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
204.2 J179 2016
Elk Grove
204.2 J179 2016
Martin Luther King, Jr.
204.2 J179 2016
In a groundbreaking historical work that addresses religious conversion in the West from an uncompromisingly secular perspective, Susan Jacoby challenges the conventional narrative of conversion as a purely spiritual journey. From the transformation on the road to Damascus of the Jew Saul into the Christian evangelist Paul to a twenty-first-century “religious marketplace” in which half of Americans have changed faiths at least once, nothing has been more important in the struggle for reason than the right to believe in the God of one’s choice or to reject belief in God altogether.
Focusing on the long, tense convergence of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—each claiming possession of absolute truth—Jacoby examines conversions within a social and economic framework that includes theocratic coercion (unto torture and death) and the more friendly persuasion of political advantage, economic opportunism, and interreligious marriage. Moving through time, continents, and cultures—the triumph of Christianity over paganism in late antiquity, the Spanish Inquisition, John Calvin’s dour theocracy, Southern plantations where African slaves had to accept their masters’ religion—the narrative is punctuated by portraits of individual converts embodying the sacred and profane. The cast includes Augustine of Hippo; John Donne; the German Jew Edith Stein, whose conversion to Catholicism did not save her from Auschwitz; boxing champion Muhammad Ali; and former President George W. Bush. The story also encompasses conversions to rigid secular ideologies, notably Stalinist Communism, with their own truth claims.
Finally, Jacoby offers a powerful case for religious choice as a product of the secular Enlightenment. In a forthright and unsettling conclusion linking the present with the most violent parts of the West’s religious past, she reminds us that in the absence of Enlightenment values, radical Islamists are persecuting Christians, many other Muslims, and atheists in ways that recall the worst of the Middle Ages.
(With 8 pages of black-and-white illustrations.)
Also in This Series
Call Number
204.2 J179 2016
On Shelf
Elk Grove
204.2 J179 2016
On Shelf
Martin Luther King, Jr.
204.2 J179 2016
On Shelf
More Like This
Other Editions and Formats
More Copies In LINK+
Loading LINK+ Copies...
More Details
First edition.
9780375423758, 0375423753


Includes bibliographical references (pages 433-438) and index.
Reviews from GoodReads
Loading GoodReads Reviews.
APA Citation (style guide)

Jacoby, S. (2016). Strange gods: a secular history of conversion. First edition. New York, Pantheon Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Jacoby, Susan, 1945-. 2016. Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion. New York, Pantheon Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Jacoby, Susan, 1945-, Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion. New York, Pantheon Books, 2016.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Jacoby, Susan. Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion. First edition. New York, Pantheon Books, 2016.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
Staff View
Grouped Work ID:
Go To GroupedWork

Record Information

Last Sierra Extract TimeFeb 23, 2024 09:13:53 AM
Last File Modification TimeFeb 23, 2024 09:14:40 AM
Last Grouped Work Modification TimeFeb 23, 2024 09:13:59 AM

MARC Record

LEADER01262pam 2200361 i 4500
008150602s2016    nyua     b    001 0 eng  
010 |a 2015019062
020 |a 9780375423758
020 |a 0375423753
040 |a DLC|b eng|e rda|c DLC|d YDXCP|d BTCTA|d BDX|d OCLCO|d OCLCF|d IMmBT
042 |a pcc
049 |a JRSA
05000|a BL639|b .J33 2016
08200|a 204/.2|2 23
099 |a 204.2 J179 2016
1001 |a Jacoby, Susan,|d 1945-
24510|a Strange gods :|b a secular history of conversion /|c Susan Jacoby.
250 |a First edition.
264 1|a New York :|b Pantheon Books,|c [2016]
300 |a viii, 464 pages :|b illustrations ;|c 25 cm
336 |a text|b txt|2 rdacontent
337 |a unmediated|b n|2 rdamedia
338 |a volume|b nc|2 rdacarrier
504 |a Includes bibliographical references (pages 433-438) and index.
650 0|a Conversion|x History.
907 |a .b24039901
945 |y .i73388300|i 33029100761287|l elkag|s -|k |u 5|x 0|w 0|v 1|t 3|z 02-16-16|o -
945 |y .i73388336|i 33029100761311|l ardag|s -|k |u 10|x 0|w 0|v 18|t 3|z 02-16-16|o -
945 |y .i7338835x|i 33029100761337|l kinag|s -|k |u 5|x 0|w 0|v 1|t 3|z 02-16-16|o -
998 |e -|d a |f eng|a ard|a cen|a elk|a kin