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Spirit of Religion and the Spirit of Liberty : The Tocqueville Thesis Revisited - (Paperback)

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Tocqueville’s thesis on the relation between religion and liberty, could hardly be timelier. Every day’s newspaper, every college campus, many recent Supreme Court decisions raise the issue in one form or another. From events in the Middle East and the spread of Islamist violence in the name of religion, to the mandated coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the interaction between religion and politics has once again become central to our political life. Tocqueville, facing the coming of a new social and political order within the lingeringly traditional society that was France, faced this relation between politics and religion with freshness and relevance. He was particularly interested to report to his French compatriots on how the Americans had, in his opinion, successfully resolved what, to many Frenchmen, looked to be an insuperable conflict. He thought otherwise, and believed that the Americans had shown why not. His surprising thesis was that the right kind of arrangement of the relation?a certain kind of separation of church and state that was not also at the same time a complete separation of religion and politics?was shown in 19th century America to be beneficial to both liberty and religion. Our volume investigates whether Tocqueville’s depiction was valid for the America he investigated in the 1830’s, was theoretically plausible, and remains valid (if it ever was) in the 21st century.

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