Cover image for One nation, under gods : a new American history
One nation, under gods : a new American history
Manseau, Peter.
Personal Author:
First Edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2015.
Physical Description:
469 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Unearthing history -- A meeting of the gods -- An American jihad -- Strange opinions in the City on a Hill -- Blasphemy -- Witches and Indians -- Call-and-response -- Longhouse nation -- Awakenings -- The Yiddish code -- Twenty gods or none -- O people of America! -- Krishna's sisters -- A tale of two prophets -- "The heathen Chinee" -- "Go ahead, keep your whiskers" -- War prayers -- The immortality racket -- City on a Hill, revisited.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BL2525 .M357 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
BL2525 .M357 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A groundbreaking new look at the story of America

At the heart of the nation's spiritual history are audacious and often violent scenes. But the Puritans and the shining city on the hill give us just one way to understand the United States. Rather than recite American history from a Christian vantage point, Peter Manseau proves that what really happened is worth a close, fresh look.

Thomas Jefferson himself collected books on all religions and required that the brand new Library of Congress take his books, since Americans needed to consider the "twenty gods or no god" he famously noted were revered by his neighbors. Looking at the Americans who believed in these gods, Manseau fills in America's story of itself, from the persecuted "witches" at Salem and who they really were, to the persecuted Buddhists in WWII California, from spirituality and cults in the '60s to the recent presidential election where both candidates were for the first time non-traditional Christians.

One Nation, Under Gods shows how much more there is to the history we tell ourselves, right back to the country's earliest days . Dazzling in its scope and sweep, it is an American history unlike any you've read.

Author Notes

Peter Manseau holds a doctorate in religion from Georgetown University and currently serves as the first-ever Curator of American Religious History at the Smithsonian. He is the author of Rag and Bone , Songs for the Butcher's Daughter , and Vows . He lives in Annapolis, Maryland.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The first presidential inaugural address to acknowledge the religious diversity of the U.S. was Barack Obama's in 2009. The reality, the president noted, predates the Republic itself. Manseau demonstrates this in 17 ­profiles in courage, among other qualities of individuals and groups who introduced or attested to the presence of many religions in North America. The first is the worst ­Columbus, who brought ruthless imperialist Catholicism. The others and their faiths are mostly more benign, including the Puritans and ever-fractionating Protestantism; business entrepreneur Jacob Lumbrozo and Judaism; enslaved Africans Omar ibn Said, Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, and Abd al-Rahman and Islam; and Seneca chief Handsome Lake, whose revelatory visions rescued him from alcoholism and anticipated Joseph Smith's Mormonism. Novelist and biographer (of his own family in Vows, 2005) as well as religious historian, Manseau artfully packs each profile with context, adding the occasional soupçon of drama to ensure maximal, enthralling readability. In conclusion, Manseau revisits the religio-political image of the city on the hill to ask whether it might be replaced by a hole in the ground.--Olson, Ray Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

The last few decades have produced several magisterial tomes on American religious history, from such authors as Sydney Ahlstrom and Edwin Gaustad. None, however, matches the subversive and much-needed revisionism of Manseau's tour de force. Arguing that "we have learned history from the middle rather than the margins... from which so much of our culture has been formed," Manseau (Rag and Bone; Vows) undertakes a thorough reimagining of our nation's religions. Christopher Columbus, in this telling, is not nearly so interesting as contemporaneous Moorish and Jewish conquistadores, who were already accustomed to cultural pluralism; Mormon founder Joseph Smith was influenced not so much by the revivalist Protestantism of western New York as by the legacy of the Iroquois spiritual leader Handsome Lake; and the Salem witch trials are evidence of Puritans' inability to stamp out persistent folk beliefs and practices from the Old World. Indeed, Manseau suggests, "a spectrum of beliefs has shaped our common history since well before the first president." Engagingly written, with a historian's eye for detail and a novelist's sense of character and timing, this history from another perspective reexamines familiar tales and introduces fascinating counternarratives. Agent: Kathleen Anderson, Anderson Literary Management. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Starred Review. America's foundational theocracy is often portrayed as "an Exodus story within the scripture of American history: England as Egypt; the ocean as desert," says Manseau (fellow, Smithsonian; coauthor, Believer, Beware). But the truth of America's religious history isn't limited to the Christians who staked claim, sometimes violently, to already occupied land. Buried in the margins is a broader picture: one of Jews and Muslims, passive colonists, skeptical Puritans, and fervent atheists-most of whom have been lost to the more nationalistic, one-dimensional view of America as Christians' chosen nation, but all of whom played a vital role in building the country and nurturing its freedoms. Manseau explains that, "if not for those on the margins of the dominant faith.the freedoms the majority takes for granted might be strangled in a noose of selective toleration." The author takes readers from Christopher Columbus to President Barack Obama with accessible and insightful prose that offers a truer picture of America's supposed ordained authority and a richer, more complex, and compelling viewpoint that is reminiscent of Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States. VERDICT This significant and timely work is important for those who wish to understand the complete and diverse landscape of religious history in America-but even more valuable for those who don't.-Erin Entrada Kelly, Philadelphia, PA (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Unearthing Historyp. 3
Chapter 1 A Meeting of the Godsp. 9
Chapter 2 An American Jihadp. 29
Chapter 3 Strange Opinions in the City on a Hillp. 59
Chapter 4 Blasphemyp. 81
Chapter 5 Witches and Indiansp. 99
Chapter 6 Call-and-Responsep. 119
Chapter 7 Longhouse Nationp. 145
Chapter 8 Awakeningsp. 167
Chapter 9 The Yiddish Codep. 185
Chapter 10 Twenty Gods or Nonep. 205
Chapter 11 O People of America!p. 229
Chapter 12 Krishna's Sistersp. 257
Chapter 13 A Tale of Two Prophetsp. 281
Chapter 14 "The Heathen Chinee"p. 305
Chapter 15 "Go Ahead, Keep Your Whiskers"p. 329
Chapter 16 War Prayersp. 347
Chapter 17 The Immortality Racketp. 369
Chapter 18 City on a Hill, Revisitedp. 401
Acknowledgmentsp. 415
Notesp. 417
Indexp. 459