“If God is dead, everything is permitted.” Dostoevsky
In the 1830’s a French nobleman named Alexis de Tocqueville spent several months touring the United States, then wrote an influential and popular bookabout what he had learned. Everywhere he went he was struck by the fact that American beliefs about freedom and civil rights seemed to be based in the Christian religion. “Upon my arrival in the United States,” Tocqueville wrote, “the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention; and the longer I stayed there the more did I perceive the great political consequences resulting from this state of things, to which I was unaccustomed.” Tocqueville went on to say “The Americans combine the notions of Christianity and of liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to conceive the one without the other.”
Don’t expect to hear Tocqueville’s words in a typical college history class. The perspective taught in most mainstream history texts is that humanistic philosophies had to unshackle America’s leading thinkers from the Judeo-Christian traditions of Europe before ideas like democracy and human rights could gain any traction.