"The 1986 Sprunt Lectures at the Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, VA were the origin of this sprightly view of American religious life in the formative years of the republic. His emphasis is on complexity, on how some Americans defended establishment as others promoted dissent, as some extolled reason while others looked to revelation. .... The unifying theme is how to develop religious institutions that promote liberty without having government play too heavy a role. Different people played with the questions, and came up with different answers. But establishment, which seemed so secure as later as 1774, was universally abandoned by 1826. Politicians lost control in many ways, and the trend was to a stronger lay influence everywhere. Things are clearer in retrospect that they ever were at the time. A very useful book that should be widely read" (p. 159).