Andrew Brendle

“No Religion, No Democracy: Tocqueville's Assessment of Religion in America”

In Democracy in America Alexis de Tocqueville argues that over the course of the last seven hundred years the world has slowly come to the realization that a society founded upon the principle of equality is ultimately more desirable than one based on aristocracy. Tocqueville adds that while this observation appears favorable to the success of democracy, a society that has reconciled and combined equality with freedom, the establishment of a dictatorship is also a genuine possibility. According to Tocqueville, one of a number of ways in which a society will maximize the likelihood of securing equality in freedom over equality in servitude is by preserving its citizen’s beliefs in religious doctrine. If a society that believes in a system of equality were to completely remove religion from its everyday lives the consequence would be tragic. People would unintentionally evolve into a condition where they were so vulnerable to servitude they would embrace it; citizens would slowly begin to believe that their actions have no consequences, they will lose the strength of soul needed to act, desirable religious dogmatic beliefs will be replaced with undesirable ones, and finally the people will become materialists. Thus, religion is a necessary instrument for the success in American democracy and without it we may find ourselves living a miserable life of equality in servitude as opposed to equality in freedom.