Date of Award
Master of Arts
Charles M. Dobbs
The decade of the 1950s was a challenging time for the United States as the nation coped with racial inequalities at home and dealt with a Cold War abroad. America believed that freedom - rooted in democratic principles - provided the ideal political and social structure for the rest of the world to emulate.
Using Iowa during the 1950s as a case study, this thesis argues that the United States government perceived communism as a greater threat to American security than it actually posed. Legislators in Washington feared that communism threatened to destroy the American way of life inciting them to push through legislation that formally recognized God on federal currency and government endorsed pronouncements. During Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidency, the United States created a "civil religion" when acknowledgment of God by the government was not religious, but patriotic.
Congress tested the boundaries of separation of church and state established by the First Amendment when the American civil religion formed. United States' policymakers believed they were defending the nation against communism by placing "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance and changing the national motto to "In God We Trust." These actions proved to be unnecessary through an analysis of Iowa during the 1950s, revealing the nation already possessed a strong devotion to God.
When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, it further exposed the superfluous actions taken by the United States government since America found science education more effective in competing with the Soviet Union and keeping the nation's interest in its efforts to defeat communism and win the Cold War.
Lindsay John Bell
Bell, Lindsay John, "Grains of God: planting faith and growing cold war fears in Iowa during the 1950s" (2014). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 13695.