100 books like American Gospel

By Jon Meacham,

Here are 100 books that American Gospel fans have personally recommended if you like American Gospel. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill

David E. Guinn Author Of Handbook of Bioethics and Religion

From my list on the role of religion in the public realm.

Why am I passionate about this?

Throughout my life, I have been fascinated by religion, initially in struggling with individual belief and later with its place within the social and political world. As a bioethicist, I studied and worked with patients and practitioners as they dealt with religious and moral concerns in healthcare. Then, as an international human rights advocate, educator, and governance development practitioner, I engaged with people of faith and secularists in the struggle to protect human rights and dignity as well as to attempt to promote peacebuilding in the post-conflict areas in which I worked, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Cote d’Ivoire.

David's book list on the role of religion in the public realm

David E. Guinn Why did David love this book?

Post 9-11, a cottage industry of neo-atheists emerged, arguing that religion inherently leads to violence and should be shunned in civilized society. Jessica Stern counters this in an insightful study of terrorism.

While religion has been associated with some of the most heinous acts of terror in recent times, she avoids simple slogans in favor of in-depth interviews with the terrorists themselves. Representing a variety of religious traditions, she explores their motivations and rationales and finds that religion is not the source of violence but, in most cases, is a tool exploited by opportunistic leaders to motivate and justify acts of violence by their followers.

I find it a well-written corrective to the neo-atheists.

By Jessica Stern,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Terror in the Name of God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For four years, Jessica Stern interviewed extremist members of three religions around the world: Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Traveling extensively-to refugee camps in Lebanon, to religious schools in Pakistan, to prisons in Amman, Asqelon, and Pensacola-she discovered that the Islamic jihadi in the mountains of Pakistan and the Christian fundamentalist bomber in Oklahoma have much in common. Based on her vast research, Stern lucidly explains how terrorist organizations are formed by opportunistic leaders who-using religion as both motivation and justification-recruit the disenfranchised. She depicts how moral fervor is transformed into sophisticated organizations that strive for money, power, and attention. Jessica…


Book cover of Life's Dominion: An Argument About Abortion, Euthanasia, and Individual Freedom

David E. Guinn Author Of Handbook of Bioethics and Religion

From my list on the role of religion in the public realm.

Why am I passionate about this?

Throughout my life, I have been fascinated by religion, initially in struggling with individual belief and later with its place within the social and political world. As a bioethicist, I studied and worked with patients and practitioners as they dealt with religious and moral concerns in healthcare. Then, as an international human rights advocate, educator, and governance development practitioner, I engaged with people of faith and secularists in the struggle to protect human rights and dignity as well as to attempt to promote peacebuilding in the post-conflict areas in which I worked, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Cote d’Ivoire.

David's book list on the role of religion in the public realm

David E. Guinn Why did David love this book?

In trying to exclude religion from the public sphere, most critics argue that religion precludes reasoned discussion: that secular arguments are rational and religious arguments are not.

Ronald Dworkin correctly recognizes that arguments over moral issues ultimately rest upon personal values, whether expressed in secular or religious terms. I love how he brilliantly breaks down arguments over such emotionally and morally controversial issues as abortion and euthanasia and then tries to identify the values relied on by both sides in how they attempt to justify their position.

In doing so, he makes two critical points: first, fundamental secular beliefs ultimately rest upon a religious-like understanding of the world, and second, in engaging with the thoughtful believer and secularist, it is possible to find common values. He uses the idea of the "sacredness of life" as one such meeting point shared by each.

By Ronald Dworkin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Life's Dominion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Internationally renowned lawyer and philosopher Ronald Dworkin addresses the crucially related acts of abortion and euthanasia in a brilliantly original book that examines their meaning in a nation that prizes both life and individual liberty. From Roe v. Wade to the legal battle over the death of Nancy Cruzan, no issues have opened greater rifts in American society than those of abortion and euthanasia. 
At the heart of Life's Dominion is Dworkin's inquest into why abortion and euthanasia provoke such controversy. Do these acts violate some fundamental "right to life"? Or are the objections against them based on the belief…


Book cover of God's Name in Vain: The Wrongs and Rights of Religion in Politics

David E. Guinn Author Of Handbook of Bioethics and Religion

From my list on the role of religion in the public realm.

Why am I passionate about this?

Throughout my life, I have been fascinated by religion, initially in struggling with individual belief and later with its place within the social and political world. As a bioethicist, I studied and worked with patients and practitioners as they dealt with religious and moral concerns in healthcare. Then, as an international human rights advocate, educator, and governance development practitioner, I engaged with people of faith and secularists in the struggle to protect human rights and dignity as well as to attempt to promote peacebuilding in the post-conflict areas in which I worked, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Cote d’Ivoire.

David's book list on the role of religion in the public realm

David E. Guinn Why did David love this book?

In the 1990s, Stephen Carter wrote a trilogy of works on religion and politics. In the first two, he criticizes the idea of a “wall of separation” approach to religious freedom that many have viewed as being hostile toward the discussion of religious beliefs in the public sphere, and he argues that religion supports informed moral debate over issues of public policy. 

In this book, Carter returns to “the wall,” but this time, he adopts the thinking of John Winthrop, who viewed the wall of separation as a means of protecting religion from the corrupting influences of politics and power–not protecting the state from religion.

I find this of particular value as it has been absent from most recent conversations on this topic. As with Jon Meacham, Carter’s writing is eloquent, well-argued, engaging, and free of vitriol.

By Stephen L. Carter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked God's Name in Vain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stephen Carter argues that American politics is unimaginable without America's religious voice. Using contemporary and historical examples, from abolitionist sermons to presidential candidates' confessions, he illustrates ways in which religion and politics do and do not mesh well and ways in which spiritual perspectives might make vital contributions to our national debates. He also warns us of the importance of setting out some sensible limits, so that religious institutions do not allow themselves to be seduced by the lure of temporal power, and offers strong examples of principled and prophetic religious activism for those who choose their God before their…


Book cover of A Man for All Seasons

David E. Guinn Author Of Handbook of Bioethics and Religion

From my list on the role of religion in the public realm.

Why am I passionate about this?

Throughout my life, I have been fascinated by religion, initially in struggling with individual belief and later with its place within the social and political world. As a bioethicist, I studied and worked with patients and practitioners as they dealt with religious and moral concerns in healthcare. Then, as an international human rights advocate, educator, and governance development practitioner, I engaged with people of faith and secularists in the struggle to protect human rights and dignity as well as to attempt to promote peacebuilding in the post-conflict areas in which I worked, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Cote d’Ivoire.

David's book list on the role of religion in the public realm

David E. Guinn Why did David love this book?

Before it was adapted into a multi-Oscar-winning film, this was an award-winning play that brilliantly explored the conflict and complex interplay between religious institutions and leaders and their secular counterparts, religion as a source of inspiration and guidance, and the efforts of one courageous man to honor his commitment to the law and his king while also living according to his faith. 

Moreover, like the other authors on this list, Thomas More defends his faith position through reasoned argument rather than resorting to dogmatic statements of faith. In a sense, Bolt brings together the multiple strands of thought present in the other four books.

By Robert Bolt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Man for All Seasons as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Henry VIII set up his own Church of England with himself at its head, one of the few men who opposed him was Sir Thomas More. The play contrasts More's virtue of 'selfhood' with the cynical assertion that every man has his price. 14 parts: 11 male, 3 female. Suitable for Age 14+


Book cover of Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion

John Soboslai Author Of God in the Tumult of the Global Square: Religion in Global Civil Society

From my list on conversations about religion and politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I learned in college that the Roman Emperor Constantine was largely responsible for determining the shape of the New Testament, it shook my outlook on religion and how it worked. Since then, I’ve studied the interplay of religion and politics for over 2 decades and taught the subject at universities on both coasts. These books aren’t just ones I find useful in teaching, but each has fanned the flames of my fascination and broadened my awareness and perspective. I hope you enjoy and find yourself thinking differently after reading them! 

John's book list on conversations about religion and politics

John Soboslai Why did John love this book?

This book is another that radically changed my perspective, and I use it routinely to help illustrate how complex the topics of religion and politics are.

What benefited me most is how Hurd challenges the very category of religion and how that category is (mis)applied in several countries. I love how she takes to task the simplistic narratives around religion and shows that they are not only insufficient but downright dangerous.

This book clearly outlines those dangers, their origins, and some noteworthy suggestions for how we can better deal with religion around the world. I find something new in each reread, both in terms of the contexts she analyzes and her approach. 

By Elizabeth Shakman Hurd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Beyond Religious Freedom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In recent years, North American and European nations have sought to legally remake religion in other countries through an unprecedented array of international initiatives. Policymakers have rallied around the notion that the fostering of religious freedom, interfaith dialogue, religious tolerance, and protections for religious minorities are the keys to combating persecution and discrimination. Beyond Religious Freedom persuasively argues that these initiatives create the very social tensions and divisions they are meant to overcome. Elizabeth Shakman Hurd looks at three critical channels of state-sponsored intervention: international religious freedom advocacy, development assistance and nation building, and international law. She shows how these…


Book cover of The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere

John Soboslai Author Of God in the Tumult of the Global Square: Religion in Global Civil Society

From my list on conversations about religion and politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I learned in college that the Roman Emperor Constantine was largely responsible for determining the shape of the New Testament, it shook my outlook on religion and how it worked. Since then, I’ve studied the interplay of religion and politics for over 2 decades and taught the subject at universities on both coasts. These books aren’t just ones I find useful in teaching, but each has fanned the flames of my fascination and broadened my awareness and perspective. I hope you enjoy and find yourself thinking differently after reading them! 

John's book list on conversations about religion and politics

John Soboslai Why did John love this book?

It can be hard to see how religion impacts the world, but this book opened a world of perspectives for me. Written by some of the biggest names in the academic world—and including recorded conversations between them—I found this book to be essential for understanding religion’s interactions with gender, race, power, and the shifting nature of secular societies.

I always like reading the most important modern thinkers, and what I appreciate about this book is it is manageable and digestible, so it serves as a great introduction to topics that fill numerous library shelves. It caps off with a brilliant discussion by Craig Calhoun, who rounds out an eye-opening set of discussions.

By Judith Butler, Jurgen Habermas, Charles Taylor , Cornel West , Eduardo Mendieta (editor) , Jonathan VanAntwerpen (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere represents a rare opportunity to experience a diverse group of preeminent philosophers confronting one pervasive contemporary concern: what role does--or should--religion play in our public lives? Reflecting on her recent work concerning state violence in Israel-Palestine, Judith Butler explores the potential of religious perspectives for renewing cultural and political criticism, while Jurgen Habermas, best known for his seminal conception of the public sphere, thinks through the ambiguous legacy of the concept of "the political" in contemporary theory. Charles Taylor argues for a radical redefinition of secularism, and Cornel West defends civil disobedience…


Book cover of Age of Anger: A History of the Present

Jeremy Appel Author Of Kenneyism: Jason Kenney's Pursuit of Power

From my list on understanding the political moment we’re in.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a journalist in Edmonton, Canada, who covered former premier Jason Kenney’s rise through Alberta politics, in which he tapped into the populist zeitgeist of Donald Trump and Brexit, and his eventual implosion. I have a newsletter on Substack, "The Orchard," where I cover the intersection of politics, the media, and corporate power. Through my journalism, I’ve developed a keen interest in this age of mass discontent we find ourselves in, with right-wing political and economic elites promising to blow up the entire system they embody while feckless liberal politicians seek to tinker around the edges to make the established order more palatable. 

Jeremy's book list on understanding the political moment we’re in

Jeremy Appel Why did Jeremy love this book?

In this book, Pankaj Mishraj describes how the failures of secular modernity led to the rise of revanchist movements seeking to provide those left behind with a common sense of purpose.

I greatly appreciated the international scope of Mishraj’s analysis, with which he reveals how the growth of reactionary, theocratic, and xenophobic populist politics across the globe are manifestations of the same sense of malaise.

He convincingly argues that these tensions are as old as modernity itself. Rather than engaging strictly with the same old historical and sociological sources to make his case, the author refreshingly engages the poets and novelists of the era he describes.

By Pankaj Mishra,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Age of Anger as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

LONGLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE 2018

NEW STATESMAN BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2017

'The kind of vision the world needs right now...Pankaj Mishra shouldn't stop thinking' Christopher de Bellaigue, Financial Times

'This is the most astonishing, convincing, and disturbing book I've read in years' Joe Sacco

'Urgent, profound and extraordinarily timely' John Banville

How can we explain the origins of the great wave of paranoid hatreds that seem inescapable in our close-knit world - from American 'shooters' and ISIS to Trump, from a rise in vengeful nationalism across the world to racism and misogyny on social media? In Age of…


Book cover of The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover: How the FBI Aided and Abetted the Rise of White Christian Nationalism

Andrew L. Whitehead Author Of American Idolatry: How Christian Nationalism Betrays the Gospel and Threatens the Church

From my list on Christian Nationalism in the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by the relationship between Christianity and the United States for decades. Much of my work in the area of Christian nationalism is the result of my personal religious history and experiences, as well as my work as a social scientist. I’ve always been fascinated by how religion influences and is influenced by its social context. Christian nationalism in the US is a clear example of how influential religious ideologies can be in our social world.

Andrew's book list on Christian Nationalism in the United States

Andrew L. Whitehead Why did Andrew love this book?

Lerone Martin’s book makes a conclusive case for how influential Christian nationalism can be when it is embraced and enforced by a whole institution—like the FBI—but especially when the person leading that institution demands it be so. J. Edgar Hoover is likely one of the most influential purveyors of white Christian nationalism in American history. Some of the accounts are jaw-dropping.

By Lerone A. Martin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The shocking untold story of how the FBI partnered with white evangelicals to champion a vision of America as a white Christian nation

On a Sunday morning in 1966, a group of white evangelicals dedicated a stained glass window to J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI director was not an evangelical, but his Christian admirers anointed him as their political champion, believing he would lead America back to God. The Gospel of J. Edgar Hoover reveals how Hoover and his FBI teamed up with leading white evangelicals and Catholics to bring about a white Christian America by any means necessary.

Lerone…


Book cover of Religion and Public Life in Canada: Historical and Comparative Perspectives

Mark A. Noll Author Of A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada

From my list on the history of Christianity in Canada.

Why am I passionate about this?

Instead of experiencing a mid-life academic crisis, I discovered Canada. Through George Rawlyk, a senior historian at Queen’s University in Ontario, and then through many fruitful contacts with older and younger Canadians as well as frequent visits north of the border, I became increasingly intrigued by comparisons with U.S. history. Most of my specialized scholarship has treated American developments, but I have been able to explain those matters more perceptively by keeping Canada’s alternative history in mind. The chance to introduce undergraduates at the University of Notre Dame to Canadian history provided a regular stimulus to think about a common subject (Christianity) taking somewhat different shapes in the two nations.

Mark's book list on the history of Christianity in Canada

Mark A. Noll Why did Mark love this book?

This wide-ranging collection of authoritative chapters provides an outstanding general account of Canadian religion at the start of the twenty-first century. Coverage extends across the nation (New Brunswick, Quebec, Toronto, Alberta); the book includes perceptive articles on Catholics, mainline Protestants, and newer evangelical Protestant movements; there is revealing treatment of Jews and Sikhs, residential schools for Natives, and church-guided social reform, efforts of missionary outreach and more. The diverse ways that Canada’s religious organizations have engaged with national public life provide a strongly unifying theme.

By Marguerite Van Die (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Religion and Public Life in Canada as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Academic and popular opinions agree that Canadian public life has become wholly secularized during the last hundred years. As this book acknowledges, religion has indeed lost most of its influence in education, politics and various interest groups. But this rigorously researched volume argues that religion was one of the early institutional bases of the public sphere, and although it has since become differentiated from the state, it should not be overlooked or underestimated by historians and sociologists of modern Canada. A compilation of scholarly case studies, it addresses the continuing influence of religion on modern, 'secular' institutions and thus on…


Book cover of The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelicals in an Age of Extremism

William Watson Author Of Twelve Steps for White America: For a United States of America

From my list on explaining a divided United States of America.

Why am I passionate about this?

My own collusion with white supremacy and anti-Blackness is a lifelong journey I mitigate for my soul’s redemption. I am a Mississippi-born redneck, alcoholic, psychotherapist, San Francisco Bay Area queer, higher education administrator with a Critical Race Theory doctorate. I first learned democracy by watching my Mississippi parents risk their lives and mine in the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Three-Fifths Magazine recently published “My First English: The Vernacular of the KKK.” My book, “Twelve Steps for White America” won the BookFest 1st Place Gold Medal for “Society and Social Sciences: Race Culture Class and Religion.” I work to live in a USA where race no longer predicts outcomes. 

William's book list on explaining a divided United States of America

William Watson Why did William love this book?

If you think it is crazy how evangelicals can support a politician who seemingly counters the very teachings of Jesus, you’ve got to read this book. I love the writing in this book! That should not be surprising since the author is an outstanding political reporter who also has an insider advantage as the son of a preacher.

LBJ lost the South for a generation, and Tim Alberta explains what happened next! 

By Tim Alberta,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times Bestseller

One of Barack Obama's Favorite Books of the Year

An Air Mail Best Book of the Year

The award-winning journalist and staff writer for The Atlantic follows up his New York Times bestseller American Carnage with this timely, rigorously reported, and deeply personal examination of the divisions that threaten to destroy the American evangelical movement.

Evangelical Christians are perhaps the most polarizing—and least understood—people living in America today. In his seminal new book, The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, journalist Tim Alberta, himself a practicing Christian and the son of an evangelical pastor, paints an…


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