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The wager of this chapter is that Thomas Paine’s cultural afterlife, especially in antebellum evangelical circles, as both an open atheist and, however contradictorily, a sneaking moral hypocrite can generatively recalibrate how scholars of the Early Republic define “religion” and help us to explain more precisely why one’s private morality came to be a public question in the United States despite the disestablishment of state churches. As this chapter argues, the rise of hypocrisy as a moral value is not so much a question of the persistence of religion in the public sphere but one of how secular society structures—and disciplines—morality. As such, hypocrisy—which signals a disconnection between public persona and private self—came to operate, this essay suggests, as a potent language of morality in our secular age, a language that becomes particularly pervasive in and through the novels of the period.

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