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Religious Intolerance, America, and the World

A History of Forgetting and Remembering

As the news shows us every day, contemporary American culture and politics are rife with people who demonize their enemies by projecting their own failings and flaws onto them. But this is no recent development. Rather, as John Corrigan argues here, it’s an expression of a trauma endemic to America’s history, particularly involving our long domestic record of religious conflict and violence.

Religious Intolerance, America, and the World spans from Christian colonists’ intolerance of Native Americans and the role of religion in the new republic’s foreign-policy crises to Cold War witch hunts and the persecution complexes that entangle Christians and Muslims today. Corrigan reveals how US churches and institutions have continuously campaigned against intolerance overseas even as they’ve abetted or performed it at home. This selective condemnation of intolerance, he shows, created a legacy of foreign policy interventions promoting religious freedom and human rights that was not reflected within America’s own borders. This timely, captivating book forces America to confront its claims of exceptionalism based on religious liberty—and perhaps begin to break the grotesque cycle of projection and oppression.

304 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2020

History: American History, History of Ideas

Political Science: Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, and International Relations

Religion: American Religions


'This provocative account should gain significant attention among scholars who continue to try and explain the complex history of religious intolerance in America."

New England Quarterly

"This timely, captivating book forces America to confront its claims of exceptionalism based on religious liberty—and perhaps begin to break the grotesque cycle of projection and oppression. . . . Religious Intolerance, America, and the World: A History of Forgetting and Remembering makes an intriguing case for how American Protestants presented themselves as advocates for religious and civil liberty abroad while often instigating religious intolerance at home."

Reading Religion

“Corrigan's Religious Intolerance, America, and the World is an exceptionally rich exploration of this topic, and a short review can hardly do justice to the nuances of his arguments and the breadth of his evidence. His interpretation of the psychological mechanism at play is especially provocative and worth contemplating. . . Religious Intolerance, America, and the World will be read with profit by scholars of American religious and political history, and will be highly suitable for graduate seminars on these subjects.”


“Through a carefully curated compilation of historical events, John Corrigan takes the reader on a journey from biblical times and the extermination of the Amalekites to the beginning of modern American history. . . . The book is an excellent find for any layperson interested in digging deep into the psyche of American Christian history, events, and policies as they relate to their relationship with the rest of the world.”

Journal of Muslim Philanthropy and Civil Society

Religious Intolerance, America, and the World is a magisterial work. It is a beautifully written and persuasively—even relentlessly—argued book, with a sweeping historical arc that begins in the colonial period and ends with the current presidency of Donald Trump. Through incisive analysis of an absolutely stunning array of primary sources, Corrigan marshals a mountain of persuasive evidence. His bookis a major and much-needed contribution to our current historical moment.”

Heather Curtis, Tufts University

“With this erudite, intelligent, provocative, and important book, Corrigan has made a major contribution to religious history, the political analysis of religious freedom, and the history of international affairs.”

Melani McAlister, George Washington University

"Corrigan covers a broad span of history with erudite, masterfully crafted chapters on early America, the antebellum period, the later nineteenth century, the Cold War, and the twenty-first century. Each chapter presents a rich world of intra-Protestant debates about the meaning of violence and persecution at home and abroad."

American Religion

“There have been some excellent recent books on how American Christians see themselves in relation to persecuted Christians abroad. . . .This book is an outstanding and highly recommended addition to this literature, giving it a broader, deeper, and darker historical context.”

Journal of Church and State

Table of Contents

Introduction. Religious Intolerance, Trauma, and the International
Concord and Contention
Identity and International Relations
International Relations and American Religious History

Chapter One. Proscribing Amalekites: Violence, Remembering, and Forgetting in Early America
Colonists, Indians, and War
Memory and Intolerance
Trauma and Identity
The Amalekites of the Old Testament
Amalek in America
Amalek and the War against Native Americans
Blotting Out, Remembering, and Forgetting
Catholics and Mormons as Amalekites
The Instability of Identity

Chapter Two. Projections: Antebellum Americans and the Overseas Crisis
Triumph of Religious Liberty
Sectarian Secrecy
Conspiracies in Boston and Philadelphia
Intolerance in Foreign Lands
The Problem Overseas
Fear of Global Catholicism
The Aftermaths of Boston and Philadelphia
Making Foreign Policy
Toward a New Era

Chapter Three. Protections: The Nineteenth Century Turns—to the South
The Foreign Spaces of Americans
Foreign Time and the Puritan Specter
Forays into Internationalism
Rescuing the Twin
Civil and Religious Liberty in South America
U.S. Policy in South America
The New Danger

Chapter Four. Pursuits: The Cold War and the Hunt for Intolerance
A World of Protestants
Communists and Cults
African American Churches
Human Rights and Religious Persecution
Religious Freedom Legislation

Chapter Five. Persecutions: The Importation of Intolerance in the Twenty-First Century
White American Christians
Identifying with the Persecuted
Stages of Persecution
Religious Intolerance and Post-Christian America


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