A Second Coming? Religious Rhetoric in Times of Existential Threat

Meredith Hiles


Why have American and British political figures made different rhetorical choices regarding the use of religious language around existential threats? This paper hypothesizes that because religious salience is higher in the United States than in the United Kingdom, American political figures are more likely to use religious rhetoric to frame discussions of existential threat than their British counterparts due to a) a need for legitimacy from the public and b) the alteration of the conception of national values to fit population shifts. Based upon this argument, a combination of polling data and content analysis are used to understand the differing trends of religious salience in the US and the UK. Content analysis is then used to study the use of religious framing devices around the construction of existential threats in the US and the UK during the early Cold War. Specific, exemplary moments are studied where the existential threats posed by the Soviet Union were constructed by political figures to the public, drawing from primary sources such as legislative sessions, speeches and releases from the government, and media interviews. The conclusions found hold important implications for better understanding the use of religious language as a rallying tool, especially in times of high threat. They also provide greater a greater understanding of the influence that a society’s religiosity has in determining political choices, even in the “secular” West.


Religion, Rhetoric, Threat

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.