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Under God [NOOK Book]


In Under God, Pulitzer Prize winner and eminent political observer Garry Wills sheds light on the frequent collision between American politics and American religion.

Beginning with the 1988 presidential contest, an election that included two ministers and a senator accused of sin, award-winning author Garry Wills surveys the tapestry of American history to show the continuity of present controversies with past religious struggles, and argues ...
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Under God

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In Under God, Pulitzer Prize winner and eminent political observer Garry Wills sheds light on the frequent collision between American politics and American religion.

Beginning with the 1988 presidential contest, an election that included two ministers and a senator accused of sin, award-winning author Garry Wills surveys the tapestry of American history to show the continuity of present controversies with past religious struggles, and argues that the secular standards of the Founding Fathers have been misunderstood. He shows that despite reactionary fire-breathers and fanatics, religion has often been a progressive force in American politics, and explains why the policy of a separate church and state has, ironically, made the position of the church stronger.

Marked by the extraordinary quality of observation that has defined Will’s work, Under God is a rich, original look at why religion and politics will never be separate in the United States.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Explicating his theory that religion is an inextricable element of American political life, Wills sheds new light on the 1988 presidential campaign. While George Bush wooed Jerry Falwell and extolled patriotism, religion, law and order, Jesse Jackson and Pat Robertson--both ordained ministers, both from the South, both advocates of a moral revival--represented antipodal political extremes. The ``secularity'' of Michael Dukakis's campaign came across in his ``pinched ideal of politics,'' while Gary Hart, a product of Yale Divinity School, failed to find ``a new moral language'' to account for personal indiscretions. Wills ( Reagan's America ) writes incisively of Mario Cuomo's stand on abortion and of Robert Bork, ``a friend of censorship.'' He gives his central thesis historical ballast; for example, Abraham Lincoln saw the Civil War as an act of ``expiatory suffering,'' and deist Thomas Jefferson in his private writings revealed his enthusiasm for Jesus's ethical doctrines. Author tour. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Wills argues that religion has always been an important element in American politics. He demonstrates that our political crises (slavery, civil rights, etc.) have all been moral dilemmas as well, often using the language and emotion of religion, and that such concepts as sin and confession, creation and apocalypse continue to influence political thinking. His topics include censorship and abortion as well as black religion and politics. The final section discusses Jefferson's concept of the separation of church and state: Wills emphasizes that the original intent of this idea was to free religion from the compromises of establishment so it could have a greater, not a lesser, moral influence on the nation. He feels this has indeed been the result, for good or ill. Another thought-provoking book from the author of Nixon Agonistes ( LJ 8/70) and Reagan's America ( LJ 2/1/87). Recommended for academic and public libraries. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/90.-- C. Robert Nixon, M.L.S., Lafayette, Ind.
From the Publisher
"Easily the most engrossing and informative — and far and away the best written — book on American politics in many, many moons."


"Abounds in complexities and ironies."


"A brilliant examination of the connection between religion and politics in American life."

The Milwaukee Journal

"A devastating analysis."

The Washington Post

"Intellectual journalism of the highest order."

San Francisco Chronicle

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439129609
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 5/28/2013
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 448
  • File size: 10 MB

Meet the Author

Garry Wills
Garry Wills is an Emeritus Professor of History at Northwestern University. Born in Atlanta in 1934, he has taught widely throughout the United States. A prolific writer and scholar, Wills is the author of more than twenty books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Lincoln at Gettysburg, Papal Sin, and What Jesus Meant. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Born in Atlanta in 1934 and raised in the Midwest, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and distinguished religion writer Garry Wills entered the Jesuit seminary after high school graduation, but left after six years of training. He received a B.A. from St. Louis University (1957), an M.A. from Xavier University of Cincinnati (1958), and his Ph.D. in classics from Yale (1961).

After graduating from Xavier, Wills was hired to work as the drama critic for National Review magazine, where he became a close personal friend and protégé of founding editor William F. Buckley. But as the winds of change blew across the 1960s, Wills got caught up in the cross-currents. A staunch Catholic anti-Communist in his youth, he began to drift away from political conservatism, galvanized by the civil rights movement and the Vietnam debate. He parted ways with National Review and began writing for more liberal-leaning publications like Esquire and the New York Review of Books, a defection that left him slightly estranged from Buckley for many years. (They reconciled before Buckley's death in 2008.)

In 1961, while he was still in grad school, Wills's first book, Chesterton: Man and Mask was published. [It was revised and reissued in 2001 with a new author's introduction.] Since then, the prolific Wills has gone on to pen critically acclaimed nonfiction that roams across history, politics, and religion. He expanded one of his Esquire articles into Nixon Agonistes (1970), a probing profile John Leonard said "...reads like a combination of H. L. Mencken, John Locke and Albert Camus." (The book landed Wills on the famous Nixon's Enemies List.) He has also written penetrating studies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Wayne, and Saint Paul; he has won two National Book Critics Circle Awards; and his 1992 book Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

Something of a rara avis, Wills is a Catholic intellectual who has produced thoughtful, scholarly books on religion in America. His translations of St. Augustine have received glowing reviews, and he has acted both as an outspoken critic of the Church (Papal Sin) and as an ardent advocate for his own faith Why I Am a Catholic). Proof of his accessibility can be found in the fact that several of his religion books have become bestsellers.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      May 22, 1934
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, GA
    1. Education:
      St. Louis University, B.A., 1957; Xavier University, M.A., 1958; Yale University, Ph.D., 1961

Table of Contents

Introduction     15
Sin and Secularity     27
New Moral Language     29
Holiness and Gary Hart     41
Fatal Composure     51
Jeremiad: The Extreme Center     62
A Theology of Willie Horton     70
Playing to Win     76
Secular Innocence     86
Bible Beginnings     95
The Superman Trial     97
Scopes: Who Won?     108
Refighting Scopes     115
Bible Endings: "Premil"     125
Fundamentals     127
America's Miliast Founders     138
Reagan and "the Prophecies"     144
Fundamentalism and the Quayles     152
"Postmil": Pat Robertson     165
Coffee-Cup Apocalypse     167
Campaigning     176
"Claiming"     184
Politics and Black Religion     193
African-American Miliasm     195
Lincoln's Black Theology     207
Marginal Man     222
Preacher Jesse     235
Preacher Andy     245
What Did Jesse Want?     256
Politics and Pornography     269
"With Ladies Present"     271
In Praise of Censure     280
A Theology of Erotica     291
Politics and Abortion     303
Catholics: Mario Cuomo     305
Evangelicals: Francis Schaeffer     318
Feminists and Fundamentalism     329
Church and State     339
Religious Separatism     341
Jefferson: The Uses of Religion     354
Jefferson: The Protection of Religion     363
Madison and the Honor of God     373
Conclusion     381
Notes     387
Index     425
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2011

    highly recommended

    Wills brings a learned and sharp analysis to issues of politics and religion, mostly in discussions of 1980's presidential campaigns. The intellectual history component is at times lost in the journalistic descriptions; a tighter work would emerge from some revision. But Wills' insights into debates still current are gems not to be missed. As a history instructor, socialist, and agnostic/former Roman catholic, I find his combination of progressive politics and Augustinian religiosity a rare and rewarding perspective.
    a truly impressive mind, he has written brief books on Jesus, Paul and the Gospels, which I would recommend... as well any of his books on USA history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2010

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    Posted December 18, 2008

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