cover image Godless Citizens in a Godly Republic: Atheists in American Public Life

Godless Citizens in a Godly Republic: Atheists in American Public Life

R. Laurence Moore and Isaac Kramnick. Norton, $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-393-25496-9

From the pages of state constitutions to the seats of Congress, Moore and Kramnick (The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness) search for places for the godless in American politics and find few. Beginning with the country’s roots in England, with its official state church, the United States’ protection of religious liberties excludes one group: nontheists and their nonbelief in a religion or deity. The authors explain that 18th- and 19th-century Americans associated morality with religion, so eschewing one was considered a rejection of the other. The tensions of the Cold War reinforced this historical bias, with rhetoric tying communism to atheism and implying a corresponding relationship between belief and patriotism. The concept of the dangerous, un-American—or worse, anti-American—atheist paved the way for the addition of “Under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 and “In God We Trust” to America’s currency in 1957, and constrained nontheists’ chances at public office and judicial seats. Synopses of pivotal Supreme Court cases demonstrate how atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists, and nontheists are frequently cast as an amoral minority. Through cautious and sensitive comparisons between nontheists and other marginalized groups, the authors present the marginalization of nontheists as an equal rights issue. This accessible and sincere book usefully makes explicit often-unspoken currents in American political life. (Aug.)