• Description

Religion is a well-compartmentalized element of modern American history, referred to and recognized as an aspect of culture, and even of politics, but today usually ranked below what Thomas Bender has called the "holy trinity of race, class and gender" when historians discuss the character of American society. Scholarship in the history of philanthropy, ranging from the narrative of Robert Bremner to the critiques of Peter Dobkin Hall, have identified religion as a fundamental motivational force, yet "quite clearly," as Hall himself has noted, "the scholarship of philanthropy has given religion remarkably short shrift." Such scholars have "assumed disinterested benevolence on the part of donors," Barry Karl and Stan Katz have argued, "but did not feel required to demonstrate it." This has been especially true of the religious context of the philanthropy of John D. Rockefeller, arguably the greatest philanthropist in American history. Even Ron Chernow's recent block-buster biography of Rockefeller does not identify a specific connection between Rockefeller's religious impulses and his particular philanthropic acts.