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Americanism:The Fourth Great Western Religion Hardcover – June 19, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (June 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385513127
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385513128
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,462,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

American Enterprise Institute fellow Gelernter argues that America is a biblical republic and Americanism a biblical religion encompassing an American Creed with three political ideals (liberty, equality, and democracy) and a doctrine, American Zionism, incorporating the biblically derived ideas of a chosen people in a promised land. Americanism is global. There's no need to be American, or to believe in God, to subscribe to it. Still, to understand Americanism, you need to understand America. Gelernter discusses the emergence of Americanism through several crucial events in American history: the Puritan exodus from England, the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, the cold war, and Islamic terrorism. He insists that his book is neither history nor group portrait but instead "an essay in folk philosophy." Not everyone will agree with Gelernter's conclusions (e.g., "If there is to be justice in the world, America must create it"), but he offers fascinating food for thought. Sawyers, June

Review

Advance Praise for Americanism

"David Gelernter is a national treasure, a patriot-scholar. In Americanism, he explains what America is to him—an idea, a belief, a religion. The City on a Hill has no greater or more powerful an advocate.”
—Bill Bennett, host of Bill Bennett's Morning in America and author of America: The Last Best Hope

“David Gelernter always has something fresh to say about any subject he touches, but never has he been so original as in this brilliant analysis of what is truly distinctive about America and in the new idea he propounds of the role played by the Bible—and especially the Old Testament—in the evolution of our special national character.”
—Norman Podhoretz, author of The Prophets and editor-at-large, Commentary magazine

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Customer Reviews

The analysis, however, disappoints.
G. H. Joost Baarssen
An excellent insight into the development of the religious context of American history.
Paul S. Mccullough
It is something that needs to be resisted, not embraced.
Craig M. Watts

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Seth J. Frantzman HALL OF FAME on December 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Riding on the heels of Dangerous Nation: America's Foreign Policy from Its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the Twentieth Century (Vintage) and Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity this book tries to examine the culture of America and its uniqueness. His greatest quest is to discover the deep hidden and subconscious traits that have made America and Americans throughout the years since independence. He encourages readers to learn more about America through this prism rather than judging America based on simplistic views of 'conservative' and 'Fast food nation.'

THe only slight qualm is that the author describes something called 'American Zionism' when he should properly have called it American israelitism, which was the term for it in the 19th century. It is no secret that from the earliest pilgrims such as Winthrop through the present day America has been seen as a 'city on the hill' or the 'new Jerusalem'. Mormons took this a step further and created a religion where America literally became the new Zion.

This book examines the religious heritage of America, her Protestant origins and her insistance on freedom and individualism.

A very well written account that provides further understanding of American heritage, history and culture.

Seth J. Frantzman
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52 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Phebe Carlotta on July 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Wow was this a revelation to me! I felt as if I was in the beginning class and an expert professor was leading me through some fasinating connections. You might not agree with the good Professor's conclusions but you must read them and be tested on your previous views of the world of the Founders and those of us who have followed them. Based on previous articles I have read by the author and some blogger recommendations, I bought the book, couldn't put it down and will be chewing it over for several re-reads. This is what thinking leads to and I urge you to exercise your mind with this book. Plus it is beautiful.
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Format: Hardcover
David Gelernter is passionate, intelligent, and a wonderful writer. I enjoyed reading this book a great deal. It's a fresh approach to the wellsprings of American Exceptionalism, which he finds in our religious heritage, especially Puritanism. But not the Puritanism we use as shorthand for tyrannical sex hating killjoys. He shows us who the real Puritans were, what they were concerned with, and what became of them. Gelernter contends that as Puritanism lost its fire it cooled into Unitarianism as a faith, but the passion passed to the idealism of what America represented to its citizens and what they believe it can mean for the world.

He sees the great phases of the development of Americanism as a faith from its founding by the Puritans, transformed during the Revolution by the original founders, and transformed again by Lincoln, whom he calls the final founder. He then sees Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson as taking the faith into its international doctrines including the Spanish American War and World War I. I do not share his enthusiasm for the Progressives because I am quite uncomfortable with their dismissal of the Constitution as antiquated and that it must yield to their doctrines of progress. But this is not something Gelernter is addressing too directly, because he wants to get us someplace else.

The author does not see FDR as a high priest of Americanism, but with Harry Truman and the Truman Doctrine and his support of the founding of Israel we get another transformation and big step forward in Gelernter's view of the foreign policy of Americanism.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Paul S. Mccullough on August 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
An excellent insight into the development of the religious context of American history. The religious underpinnings of the American culture are very well expressed and their historic significance makes clear a fundamental difference we have and will continue to have with Europe, necessitating, I believe, a better understanding of why we see the world and our role in it through a different lens.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A. D. Handman on January 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Basically, this is where author David Gelernter wants to take us: George W. Bush and the neoconservative agenda he figureheads are the modern day embodiment of the Spirit of Abraham Lincoln (whom Gelernter obviously idolizes).

Books could probably be written on why this comparison is more than a bit strained.

Even so, it must be said that Gelernter gives a concise and readable treatment of the rationale behind American exceptionalism. He recasts this concept as a biblically influenced gospel called Americanism, a loosely recognized view of American destiny that many in that country mistake for Christianity. Gelernter's thesis seems to be that Americanism serves well as a political/cultural gospel,one that endorses what he sees as biblically grounded notions of liberty, equality and democracy. In theory, all Americans can get behind this national gospel no matter what our personal religion, or lack thereof, may be.

Like most idealistic books that seek to counterbalance liberal negativism toward U.S. policy, it contains a good deal of whitewashing. There is a fine line between Americanism and triumphalism. But many will wish that America as a nation could regain the sense of purpose and higher calling that guided Lincoln and others. I do not agree with all of Gelernter's links between Lincoln, Truman, and current affairs in the mideast, but the book is helpful for understanding Neocon thought.
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