Tocqueville’s Roles of Religion in Democracy

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Throughout Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, he depicts the realities of religion in democracies, while illustrating the importance of Religion in the continued success of democracies. He also states that for a number of reasons, and not unlike all other forms of government, there are dangers. He points out the importance of religion by displaying how it aids the avoidance of these dangers and, the sustained prosperity of democracy. To first determine the importance of religion in democracies, you must first determine its dangers. The first of these dangers is susceptibility of Americans to extreme individualism, and isolation from the community. Secondly Tocqueville fears that American’s would develop an excessive desire for material things. Moreover, he believes democracy would cause American’s to lose the ability to think for themselves and, instead conform to society. Tocqueville’s final concern of Democracy was that an intense aspiration for total equality would in turn create a society who sacrifices many rights. Tocqueville argues that the only thing which will keep Americans away from these dangers, which would undoubtedly lead to despotism is religion as source of moral education. He says that all decisions by man are a result of the values which man has received from god and without these values we would be left to a life full of disorder. Religion indirectly affects the state through mores which are described as “the whole moral and intellectual state of a people.”(287) These mores are what prevents democracies from being engulfed by the dangers which are products of tyranny and despotism. In a state without religion “each man gets into the way of having nothing but confused and changing notions about the matters of greatest importance to himself and his fellows”(444) and when combating materialism, the presence of religion “places the

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