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Short Synopsis
From the bestselling author of The Age of American Unreason, a provocative social history of the secular forces driving conversion—for better and for worse—in the Western world, from the transformation of the Jewish Saul into Christianity's first proselytizer Paul to the twenty-first-century revival of violent religious coercion by radical Islamic terrorists.

Full Synopsis
In this original and riveting exploration, Susan Jacoby argues that conversion—especially in the free American "religious marketplace"—is too often viewed only within the conventional and simplistic narrative of personal reinvention and divine grace. Instead, the author places conversions within a secular social context that has, at various times, included the force of a unified church and state, desire for upward economic mobility, and interreligious marriage.

Moving through time, continents, and cultures, Jacoby examines conversions to authoritarian secular ideologies. She also provides portraits of individual converts, including the Catholic Church father Augustine of Hippo; the German Jewish convert to Catholicism Edith Stein, murdered at Auschwitz and canonized by the church; boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who scandalized white Americans in the 1960s by becoming a Muslim; and even politicians such as George W. Bush. Finally, Jacoby takes on the question of why the freedom to choose a religion—or to reject religion altogether—is a fundamental human rights issue that remains a breeding ground for violence in areas of the world that never experienced an Enlightenment.

"Jacoby draws the first detailed maps of a terrain that has been very much in need of intelligent, careful cartography." ---Kirkus Starred Review

"[Jacoby's] combination of intellectual rigor, vigor, erudition, and integrity makes Strange Gods wonderfully lively and enlightening." ---Rebecca Goldstein, author of Plato at the Googleplex

"Susan Jacoby writes more intelligently and insightfully than any author I have read on the vexed issues of religious identity, freedom, ideology, and the collision of secular and theological forces." ---James Shapiro, author of The Year of Lear

"Elizabeth Wiley narrates this complex work in steady, crisp tones, differentiating quotations from the narrative by slight shifts in pitch." ---AudioFile
Kirkus Review

Strange Gods

A Secular History of Conversion

Author Susan Jacoby

Narrated by Elizabeth Wiley

Publication date Feb 16, 2016

Running time 20 hrs

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