Title

Religion, Culture and Conformity during the Cold War

Presenter Information

Alec Schmidt

Document Type

Oral Presentation

Location

SURC 201

Start Date

17-5-2012

End Date

17-5-2012

Abstract

This paper is an inquiry into one of the driving forces during the Cold War: religion. The 1950s were not only the dawning of the Cold War, but also the decade in which religiosity in America drastically increased. The Foucaultian principle of panopticism helps reveal the ways in which religion was used as a very insidious form of oppression. American’s were not oppressed during the Cold War in the sense that they were enslaved, but rather they were intellectually oppressed. Religion allowed political leaders to equate Communism with Satan. Mythology assisted politicians and public figures in inducing near culture wide conformity against communism. Although the USSR was a threat, the issue was greatly exaggerated and there was a general lack of factual arguments. Speculation was allowed to take the place of claims supported by objective evidence. A perfect economy of power began to function. Public religious figures such as Fulton J. Sheen were prone to self-deception. They believed themselves to be doing God’s work when in reality they were serving the purpose of the political panopticon. American citizens began depicting communism as the greatest evil on earth. They fell victim to panopticism and began functioning as normalizing mechanisms throughout society. The focus of the paper is to elaborate on how religion served as the perfect and most insidious political panopticon because it allowed for culture-wide deception. This prompted citizens to set themselves against communism and allow for coerced and lasting conformity.

Faculty Mentor(s)

Matthew Altman

Additional Mentoring Department

Philosophy and Religious Studies

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May 17th, 3:00 PM May 17th, 3:20 PM

Religion, Culture and Conformity during the Cold War

SURC 201

This paper is an inquiry into one of the driving forces during the Cold War: religion. The 1950s were not only the dawning of the Cold War, but also the decade in which religiosity in America drastically increased. The Foucaultian principle of panopticism helps reveal the ways in which religion was used as a very insidious form of oppression. American’s were not oppressed during the Cold War in the sense that they were enslaved, but rather they were intellectually oppressed. Religion allowed political leaders to equate Communism with Satan. Mythology assisted politicians and public figures in inducing near culture wide conformity against communism. Although the USSR was a threat, the issue was greatly exaggerated and there was a general lack of factual arguments. Speculation was allowed to take the place of claims supported by objective evidence. A perfect economy of power began to function. Public religious figures such as Fulton J. Sheen were prone to self-deception. They believed themselves to be doing God’s work when in reality they were serving the purpose of the political panopticon. American citizens began depicting communism as the greatest evil on earth. They fell victim to panopticism and began functioning as normalizing mechanisms throughout society. The focus of the paper is to elaborate on how religion served as the perfect and most insidious political panopticon because it allowed for culture-wide deception. This prompted citizens to set themselves against communism and allow for coerced and lasting conformity.