Alexis de Tocqueville on the Natural State of Religion in the Age of Democracy


Aristide Tessitore Furman University, Greenville, SC 29613–1206


Contemporary scholars, journalists, and politicians are deeply divided with respect to the religious or secular character of America’s founding principles. In sharp contrast to the narrowing tendencies of contemporary intellectual and political life, Tocqueville’s classic study of democracy in America is the first of any scope to give weight to America’s dual founding—biblical and philosophic. For Tocqueville it is the combination of two different traditions, neither of which can be reduced to the other, that is the hallmark of the new political science he bequeaths to the dawning democratic age. In this article, I draw out the natural state of religion in a democratic society, particularly as it comes to light in America, as well as Tocqueville’s attempts to address the particular problems and possibilities to which it gives rise.