Aside from all the festering issues our nation faces like the economic downturn, the budget deficit, and unemployment, The House, this past week, passed a resolution reaffirming the official motto of the United States: In God We Trust. With only nine nays, The House easily passed this nonsensical bill, pushing aside those much weightier matters for someone else’s term. Is this a mere political maneuver to appease those religious zealots to bring God back to America or should it be seen as an act by the House of Representatives to gain some murmured applause under the loud, bellowing boos it has constantly been delivered? As a country, though, Do we trust in God? Is this a Godless society? “So make no mistake, I’m no fan of a motto that divides Americans along religious lines. With polls showing increasing numbers of Americans expressing skepticism about the existence of God or defining God in non-traditional ways, the motto is increasingly polarizing” (Washington Post Blog, Nov. 2). Tocqueville didn’t see this one coming.
Dwight D. Eisenhower once remarked that “Our government makes no sense unless it is founded in deeply felt religious faith- and I don’t care what it is.” I, for one, think Tocqueville would disagree. At the time he is writing, reporting on the infantile nation, Tocqueville believes that democracy has the power to do whatever it wants, to make any laws it wants, however religions halts the people of the polity from taking the flight of fancy and creating outlandish and unjust laws. But this religion is Christianity. He makes no mention of Judaism, Islam, Atheists, etc. What he cannot predict is, that although our nation was found on Christian ideals, America would become a microcosm of different religious backgrounds. As a French expatriate, Tocqueville came to America to escape the threats against the French aristocracy and his ties to them. I find it especially interesting how he feels so strongly that Christianity maintains democracy, since he has just fled the violent usurpations by the French people and their dismemberment of a national religion. Tocqueville talks at great length of the separation between church and state.
“As long as a religion rests upon those sentiments which are the consolation of all affliction, it may attract the affections of mankind. But if it be mixed up with the bitter passions of the world, it may be constrained to defend allies whom its interests, and not the principle of love, have given to it; or to repel as antagonists men who are still attached to its own spirit, however opposed they may be to the powers of which it is allied. The Church cannot share the temporal power of the State without being the object of a portion of that animosity which the latter excites” (Tocqueville 358).
I’m not denying that Christianity took no party in establishing and maintaining democracy in the United States. As Tocqueville states, “Religion in America takes no direct part in government of society, but it must nevertheless be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste for freedom, it facilitates the use of free institutions” (353). But, the Frenchman would see it very differently today.