"It is a day of judgment": The peacemakers, religion, and radicalism in Cold War America

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Abstract

This article argues that Christian beliefs and concerns shaped the political culture of anti-nuclear activism in the early years of the Cold War. It focuses in particular on the origins of the Peacemakers, a group founded in 1948 by a mostly Protestant group of radical pacifists to oppose conscription and nuclear proliferation. Like others who came of age in the interwar years, the Peacemakers questioned the Enlightenment tradition, with its emphasis on reason and optimism about human progress, and believed that liberal Protestantism had accommodated itself too easily to the values of modern, secular society. But rather than adopt the "realist" framework of their contemporaries, who gave the United States critical support in its Cold War with the Soviet Union, radicals developed a politics of resistance rooted in a Christian framework in which repentance for dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was the first step toward personal and national redemption. Although they had scant influence on American policymakers or the public in the early years of the Cold War, widespread opposition to nuclear testing and U.S. foreign policy in the late 1950s and 1960s launched them into leadership roles in campaigns for nuclear disarmament and peace.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-248
Number of pages34
JournalReligion and American Culture
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Religious studies

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