Emory Report
March 2, 2009
Volume 61, Number 22



Emory Report homepage  

March 2
, 2009
Gunn on arms and religion

By Mary Loftus

When President Barack Obama said during his campaign that “the United States must maintain a military that is second to none,” he was echoing what has become a common refrain among candidates of both parties since the late 1940s, says Center for the Study of Law and Religion senior fellow T. Jeremy Gunn.

Gunn’s new book, “Spiritual Weapons: The Cold War and the Forging of an American National Religion” (Praeger, 2009), explores how after World War II Americans developed a trinity that has become a national religion:

• The United States should have a military second to none even in peacetime;

• Government officials should adopt laws praising God; and

• “Capitalism means freedom.”

Gunn says the trinity was forged by the Cold War and arose in reaction to both the imagined and real dangers posed by the Soviet Union and communism. For four years, as part of the CSLR’s research project on Religion and Human Rights, he reviewed reams of declassified government documents and press reports dating back to the 1940s.

“My original intent was to write about how religion has influenced foreign policy, but I ended up discovering instead how American foreign policy shaped Americans’ understanding about religion,” says Gunn, who also directs the American Civil Liberties Union Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.

The battle between “good” (America and allies) and “evil” (the Soviet Union and communism) became cast as “a battle of faith against atheism, and religious liberty against religious persecution,” Gunn writes.