In 1844 Karl Marx famously dubbed religion “the opium of the people.” Religion, he believed, distracted the proletariat from the true problems they confronted and encouraged them to remain in subjugation. In 1966, Herbert Gutman called on historians to take more seriously the religious beliefs of the working class. Now, in 2016, a group of mostly junior scholars is seeking to overturn Marx by answering Gutman’s call. Christopher D. Cantwell, Heath W. Carter, and Janine Giordano Drake have assembled nine essays that through various case studies seek to analyze how religion shaped and impacted the working class. In so doing, they are building on the pathbreaking work of Ken Fones-Wolf, who penned the foreword to this collection.

A primary goal of the collection, which Fones-Wolf identifies, is to “get under the surface of religious practices and sermons.” He believes that “only...

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