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

3.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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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


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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition/First Printing edition (June 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385513127
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385513128
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,015,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Hardcover
The idea that "America" was and is perceived as an idea is not novel at all. The idea, however, that "America" is a religious idea--a faith in liberty, equality and democracy--and that America is a biblical republic with "the Bible on its mind," is an interesting catch which provides for an intriguing topic for a book. The analysis, however, disappoints. Nowhere does Gelernter truly fathom the material in any unexpected way, which, indeed, had already been worked over and over. When Gelernter argues that "simplicity as a worldview was especially important in America," I'm afraid, with due respect, it seems like he's talking about his own book.

Gelernter's is a highly monological history of the United States. When he writes that "America's earliest settlers came in search of religious freedom, to escape religious persecution'important facts that Americans sometimes forget," we must pause and reflect what has just been argued. Have Americans, and others, really forgotten the most overdone, the most overstated fact of early America? No, Professor Gelernter, what Americans and others tend to forget is the diversity of early America. No word about the early Dutch, who did not come for religious reasons to America at all (the fact that both their Republic and New Netherland were mildly tolerant of religious thought is something that could have been of use to Gelernter, though), no word about the Swedes, no word about the French Huguenots, and so on. I wouldn't want to understate the influence of Puritanism on American thought at all, but to claim that "America started with the Puritans," is an essentialist, homogeneous, and monological misrepresentation.
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