An issue that is usually overlooked when discussing early American naturalism concerns its relationship with religion. By “naturalism” I broadly mean that specific philosophical movement which spread in the United States towards the second half of the nineteenth century, following the early reception of Darwin's book On the Origin of Species (1859), and which flourished in the first half of the twentieth century, producing conferences, debates, and philosophical manifestos.1

There is in fact a longstanding and unfortunate tendency to construe naturalism and religion as inherently antithetical terms and modes of thinking. Naturalism, we know, is a philosophical movement that liberates from supernatural symbols, denies the existence of a supersensible reality, and becomes, par excellence, the fulcrum of a contrast between a properly secular culture and a traditional religious society. On the one hand, we thus have the progressive development of a “scientific philosophy” that draws its first impulses...

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