Crediting God: Sovereignty and Religion in the Age of Global Capitalism

By Miguel Vatter | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 13
The Religious Situation in the United States
175 Years After Tocqueville

Josè Casanova

In Democracy in America there is a passage in which Tocqueville clearly states what he takes to be the real relation between religion and freedom, and it is only appropriate to begin by citing it:

Eighteenth-century philosophers had a very simple explanation for the
gradual weakening of beliefs. Religious zeal, they said, was bound to die
down as enlightenment and freedom spread. It is tiresome that the facts do
not fit this theory at all.…

In America the most free and enlightened people in the world zealously
perform all the external duties of religion.

The religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck
me on arrival in the United States. The longer I stayed in the country, the
more conscious I became of the important political consequences resulting
from this novel situation.

In France I had seen the spirits of religion and of freedom almost always
marching in opposite directions. In America I found them intimately linked
together in joint reign over the same land.

My longing to understand the reason for this phenomenon increased
daily.

To find this out, I questioned the faithful of all communions… all
thought that the main reason for the quiet sway of religion over their

-253-

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