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Compare and contrast Rousseau's and Tocqueville's accounts of the civil function of religion in a democracy. Consider closely the respective merits of their case before offering your own assessment

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  1. Introduction
  2. Rousseau's concept of civil religion
  3. Difference between Tocqueville and Rousseau
  4. Author's quotes

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. [...]


[...] Rousseau's concept of civil religion is a contemporarily new one, and before defining it he examines what he sees to be the three other significant forms of religion. The first of these is the religion of man, or natural divine law, and it is ?without temples, altars or rites, and limited to the purely internal cult of the supreme God and to the eternal duties of morality? (223). Rousseau relates this religion to that of the Christianity of the Gospel, which most likely refers to that of the New Testament. [...]

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