Democracy in America

Tocqueville’s America: No Place for an Atheist College

“Disbelief is an accident; faith alone is the permanent state of humanity,” writes Alexis de Tocqueville in his book Democracy in America (284). According to Tocqueville, there are a few main threats that oppose democracy: the need for equality, the desire for individualism, and the love of materialism. When these threats bleed into the real lives of Americans, the chance of despotism increases. In Volume II of Democracy in America, originally published in 1840, Tocqueville makes the claim that the biggest single entity that can combat these threats is religion. The freedom of the press and the right of association help, but Tocqueville writes that faith is the most beneficial of these, both politically and societally. He believes that religion provides a sort of rulebook that teaches people how to exercise their freedom appropriately. The religious leaders teach their followers to focus less on individuality and materialism, and put more thought towards the common good. However, in an ever-changing country where atheism is on the rise and traditional family values are in decline, are Tocqueville’s beliefs on the importance of religion in America revealing themselves to be less and less true?

Tocqueville strongly advocates for...

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