Based on fieldwork at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory - the facility that designed the neutron bomb and the warhead for the MX missile - Nuclear Rites takes the reader deep inside the top-secret culture of a nuclear weapons lab. Exploring the scientists' world of dark humor, ritualized secrecy, and disciplined emotions, anthropologist Gusterson uncovers the beliefs and values that animate their work. He discovers that many of the scientists are Christians, deeply convinced of the morality of their work. An unexpected number are also liberals who opposed the Vietnam War and the Reagan-Bush agenda. In a lively, wide-ranging account, Gusterson analyzes the ethics and politics of laboratory employees, the effects of security regulations on scientists' private lives, and the role of nuclear tests - beyond the obvious scientific one - as rituals of initiation and transcendence.