Gods of War: Religion and American Espionage in World War II

Prof. Dr. Matthew Sutton

HCA Scholar-in-Residence and Marsilius Visiting Professor 2014/15


Religion, like catapults, ciphers, and dirty bombs, has played a central role in human conflict and espionage from the Peloponnesian Wars to the “war on terror.” At no time in the modern era was this more evident than during World War II. Franklin Roosevelt claimed that the Allies were battling to secure global freedom of religion, American spies recruited foreign priests to foment insurgencies, and devout missionaries served as covert agents. This book analyzes how religion was deployed in the war: as a political and ideological tool, as a secret weapon employed by men and women working in intelligence, covert operations, and espionage, and as a form of identity that opened doors and facilitated alliances. In these and many other ways, Americans exploited the power of religion to great effect. Their work set precedents for the Cold War-era actions of the CIA, the American crusade against “godless communism,” and, more recently, George W. Bush’s “war on terror.” To make these arguments, I draw on the actions and ideologies of hundreds of characters of all faiths and nationalities spread around the globe. They include a German priest who aspired to be a secret agent, a future CIA director who aggressively recruited religious activists for covert operations, and a fundamentalist Christian missionary-turned spy. Their work, with its ironic twists and violent turns ensured that faith was always close to the fight.


Thursday, November 13, 2014, 6.15 p.m.

Curt und Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais (HCA)

Hauptstraße 120, 69117 Heidelberg     

Editor: office
Latest Revision: 2014-11-13
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