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Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Unbelievers
Boorstin, Daniel Joseph (1914 - 2004)
"What preoccupies us, then, is not God as a fact of nature, but as a fabrication useful for a God-fearing society. God himself becomes not a power but an image."

-- Daniel Boorstin


Daniel J. Boorstin, a Jewish-American historian and writer, was the Librarian of Congress from 1975 until 1987.

Boorstin graduated with honors from Harvard, studied at Balliol College, Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and earned his PhD. at Yale University. He was a lawyer and university professor. He also served as director of the National Museum of History and Technology of the Smithsonian Institution.Boorstin wrote more than 20 books, including a trilogy on the American experience and one on world intellectual history. The Americans: The Democratic Experience, the final book in the first trilogy, received the 1973 Pulitzer Prize in history. Boorstin also wrote the books The Discoverers and The Creators, a pair of books that attempt to survey the scientific and artistic histories of humanity respectively.

Within the discipline of social theory, Boorstin’s 1962 book The Image: A guide to Pseudo-events in America is notable as it is considered by some to be an early, landmark attempt to describe aspects of American life that would later famously be termed hyperreality and postmodernity. In The Image, Boorstin describes shifts in American culture - mainly due to advertising - where the reproduction or simulation of an actual event becomes more important or 'real' than the event itself.

He goes on to coin the term pseudo-event which describes events or activities that almost solely exist within the realm of advertisements or other forms of publicity, but largely did not actually occur in real life. The idea of Pseudo-events closely mirrors work done later by French postmodernists such as Jean Baudrillard and Guy Debord. The work was often used as a text in American sociology courses.

When President Gerald Ford nominated Boorstin to be Librarian of Congress, the nomination was supported by the Authors League of America but opposed by the American Library Association because Boorstin "was not a library administrator." The Senate confirmed the nomination without debate.

During his term as Librarian of Congress, Boorstin established the Center for the Book to encourage reading and literacy. In addition, he spearheaded what became a 10-year project to completely renovate the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, restoring the main building to its original 1897 condition. He became Librarian of Congress Emeritus on August 4, 1987. Boorstin was born in Atlanta, Georgia and died in Washington, D.C.

Quotations

"I have observed that the world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress. No agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake or tortured a pagan, a heretic, or an unbeliever."

"What preoccupies us, then, is not God as a fact of nature, but as a fabrication useful for a God-fearing society. God himself becomes not a power but an image."

"God is the Celebrity-Author of the World's Best Seller. We have made God into the biggest celebrity of all, to contain our own emptiness."

"The Christian test was a willingness to believe in the one Jesus Christ and His Message of salvation. What was demanded was not criticism but credulity. The Church Fathers observed that in the realm of thought only heresy had a history."

 
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