Democracy and Religion?

I realized yesterday that we have half a year left to spring now in Sweden. First week of April is a common spring initiation around here. Took a walk today in the early fall with fresh leaves fallen on the ground. The smell of fall was evident in the air. The lawn has slowed down.

Reading a book about Religion in America by a French author, Denis Lacorne from 2011. It is originally written in French in 2007 but contains an afterword that comments on Obama’s “Faith-friendly Secularism”. Lacorne talks about the American civilization and makes some corrections on Tocqueville’s Democracy in America from 1835. He does not think, like Tocqueville, that democracy took off from the Puritans in New England but rather had a secular origin from the Founding Fathers.

Lacorne thinks evangelism was the religious origin of the national walls of America and suspected atheist Jefferson was elected 1800 with the help of evangelical votes that objected to the bullying of the then established churches. The romantic American historian George Bancroft did however also point at the Puritans as a source of democracy and religion in the US like Tocqueville.

What I think is interesting in this context is that Thomas Jefferson, the drafter of the Independence Declaration and the third President of the US, had three favorite historic persons in mind when he acted namely: Francis Bacon, John Locke, and Isaac Newton. Maybe he pictured a future country in the name of science more than he pictured it religious even if he probably was realistic enough to feature a religious context for his country. Jefferson was a lawyer like Bacon.

The question then is if Americans have become, or always been, so different from the Europeans that we can’t keep Atlanticism going? The relative success so far on the Libya mission of NATO will of course help for a while. Economically France and Germany have started a battle against Anglo-America. They, for some reason, don’t think you should make money on money. A Tobin tax is the latest aim in suppressing the City of London.

The US is more religious than Europe currently. It has been possible to assume that this could give the US its higher growth rate, although I have not ever seen that in writing. However, the non-religious China is doing fine on growth even if this growth to a large extent so far is a proof of the success of Western globalism. Some Chinese academics say that the lack of Christianity was what made the West stronger and there are attempts right now to restore Confucianism, a new Confucianism, as a moral precept for the masses. Marx would probably turn in his grave. Marxism is still the official dogma of the Chinese communist party.

Tocqueville thought democracy needed religion to function. Contrary to his contemporary American historians he advocated Catholicism as the optimal form of Christianity. He viewed the multitude of more “enthusiastic” Protestant sects as having a divisive effect on government. In other words he thought of religion as a societal stabilizer just like China is searching for right now. Without democracy, however, religion is a competing organization and with Poland in mind Catholicism probably has a hard time in China. I understand that the Party is appointing bishops.

Today I read about the Swedish Church in Svenska Dagbladet. They have to start getting rid of church buildings for economic reasons. Many are standing empty and demand heating and maintenance. The Christian Democrat party in Sweden is in jeopardy not to make the 4% level needed for entry into Parliament in the next election and their larger brother in Germany is also losing votes. I can’t help asking Tocqueville’s question: is democracy in trouble in Europe? Angela  Merkel is losing power being the most important person to hold the EU together. The obvious follow up question is if it is good for democracy if the Euro and thereby, as Merkel is fond of pointing out, the EU will fall?

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