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American Government Final.docx - Nathaniel Parks Honors...

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Nathaniel Parks Honors American Government Final May 4, 2016 Religion, especially that of Christianity, has been a huge part of American culture, as well as American political thought. The French writer, Alexis de Tocqueville, remarks, “in America, religion is the road to knowledge, and the observance of the divine laws leads man to civil freedom. 1 ” He argues that without religion in America there would be no liberty. To Americans, the two go hand in hand. While this idea comes mainly from the Puritan founders in the North East, it has permeated American thought throughout history, and has been a constant force that drives the American people and American politics. Throughout this essay, we will look at the founding of the Christian tradition in America, as well as the different appeals to religion that people have made throughout America’s history to spur its people to action. As stated above, the inseparability of religion and liberty originated in America with the Puritans. In its origin, Puritanism, and too a greater extent, Protestantism, grew out of an intense desire for liberty. Protestantism and Puritanism are “not only favorable to liberty, but built upon it 2 ,” as the founding of this faith was based on leaving a religion that was restricting their religious views. They wanted to leave the Catholic Church because the common wanted more of a say in their religious decisions and beliefs. The Puritans, specifically, were a group of settlers who fled England in an attempt “to live according to their own opinions and 1 Alexis de Tocqueville, Origin of the Anglo-Americans, and Importance of this Origin in Relation to their Future Condition, pg. 7 2 Edmund Burke, Speech on Conciliation with America, pg. 1
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worship God in freedom 3 .” Puritanism, as Tocqueville states, “was almost as much a political theory as it was a religious doctrine 4 .” The Puritans wanted to establish a political system that allowed their beliefs to be practiced in peace. They chose to establish “a democracy more perfect than antiquity had dared to dream 5 ,” and set about to do so. In establishing this democracy, they placed their religious doctrine at the head, and created laws that aligned with those beliefs. This democracy, with its strong ties to the Puritan’s religious ideology, became the foundation for both the American political system and the American identity. Democracy wasn’t the only thing the Puritans affected in America. The Puritans believed strongly in public education, and like many of their beliefs, it was rooted in their religious tradition. According to Puritan thought, “Satan, the enemy of mankind, finds his strongest weapons in the ignorance of men 6 .” In order to protect children from the grasp of the devil, the Puritans sought to educate their children so as to keep them from falling into ignorance, and in turn, falling prey to Satan’s desires. They achieved this through the establishment of public education.
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