de Tocqueville on religion and freedom

“When the religion of a people is destroyed, doubt gets hold of the higher powers of the intellect and half paralyzes all the others. Such a condition cannot but enervate the soul, relax the springs of the will, and prepare a people for servitude. When there is no longer any principle of authority in religion any more than in politics, men are speedily frightened at the aspect of this unbounded independence. Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot. Religion is much more necessary in democratic republics than in any others. How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed?” -Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)

Comments

  1. Stephen says:

    “How is it possible that society should escape destruction if the moral tie is not strengthened in proportion as the political tie is relaxed?”

    To paraphrase, morality needs to be strengthened if political power is to diminish. This is a basic premise of anarchists such as Pierre Proudhon. Some monasteries, for example, could probably be seen as functioning anarchist communities. Internal moral structures must be strengthened if external political power structures are to weaken. When political power systems finally collapse, it is usually the sacred societies, or religious groups, that persevere.