Rousseau and Tocqueville fundamentally agree that the civil function of religion is to strengthen the bond that exists between the people and the law. However, the two men differ in their views on how this bond should be strengthened. Rousseau argues in favor of a new, civil religion being imposed by the sovereign, while Tocqueville argues that the people must accept a set of ready-made beliefs, but keep the church and state separated. Although their respective theories on how religion should be used differ, they both assert that religion must serve to check the morals of the citizens and augment their love of the laws. Religion does this by offering the people a set of pre-founded beliefs that are in accord with social morality, justice and growth. For both political thinkers, the civil purpose of religion is to instill in the majority a common opinion which is conducive to the health and progress of the state.
[...] Rousseau notes such a form of religion can be found with Roman Christianity, and in contrast with Tocqueville, he argues that it is not even worth the time to examine a form of religion that “breaks up social unity” and places man in “contradiction with himself” (223). After proving the unfavorable nature of these three forms of religion, it is clear that Rousseau's solution to the problem of what role religion should play in civic affairs can be found only in his aforementioned proposal for a civil religion. [...]
[...] In giving men two sets of legislation, two leaders, and two homelands, it subjects them to contradictory duties and prevents them from being simultaneously devout men and citizens It can be called the religion of the priest. third is so bad that it is a waste of time to amuse oneself by proving it. Whatever breaks up social unity is worthless. All institutions that place man in contradiction with himself are of no value.” second is good in that it unites the divine cult with love of the laws, and that in making the homeland the object of its citizens' admiration, it teaches them that all service to the state is service to its tutelary god.” Pg 223 the other hand, it is bad in that, being based on error and lies, it deceives men, makes them credulous and superstitious, and drowns the rue cult of the divinity in an empty ceremony. [...]
[...] Would Tocqueville still argue so strongly in favor of the separation of Church and State if he saw that Christianity no longer dictates common opinion as surely as it used to? Tocqueville's arguments are all sound and rational, but his fault lies in the fact that he was too much of an historical analyst and not enough of a political philosopher. Tocqueville's account of the civic function of religion relates only to that of Christianity in democratic America in 1835, and he fails, where Rousseau succeeds, to offer a general proposal on the ultimate function of religion in any civil society. [...]
[...] Thus, although their respective theories on how religion should be used are different, they both believe that the civil purpose of religion is to instill in the majority a common opinion which is conducive to the health and progress of the state. Furthermore, religion must be used to check the morals of the citizens and augment their love of the laws by offering them a set of pre-founded beliefs that are in accord with social morality, justice, and growth. Thesis: Religion serves to create or strengthen the bond between people and the law They go about creating this bond differently Religion serves to instill in the majority a common opinion which is conducive to the health and progress of the state Rousseau argues that to do this the sovereign must impose a doctrine of beliefs Tocqueville argues that to do this men must accept a ready made doctrine, because in times of equality in a democracy, the people will only trust the majority, and this is the only way they can move forward Clearly, one can see that Rousseau takes seriously the function of religion in society. [...]
[...] Although Rousseau and Tocqueville analyze the civil function of religion from different perspectives and offer different accounts of how this religion should be used, they both come to the conclusion that religion is a valuable tool that must be used and manipulated to aid the state. Religion must be used to unify the public in ways that the state cannot, and once this is accomplished the state will gain authority and the citizens will act in accord with one another for the sake of the common good. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee