Or at least his points about constitutional democracy were, so says an article on Salon. So says one quote in reference to George Washington’s farewell address – “Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports,”
The idea that religion is important because it educates democratic citizens in morality is actually quite demeaning to religion. It imposes a political test on religion, as it were — religions are not true or false, but merely useful or dangerous, when it comes to encouraging the civic virtues that are desirable in citizens of a constitutional, democratic republic.
and then goes on to make the point that religion is not complementary to democracy because of its moral system or even “civic virtues,” but because it produces a convenient voting bloc. Indeed, the Salon article argues that America isn’t a Christian nation so much as its leaders pay lip service to a Christian majority to remain in power – quoting Eisenhower and McCain on the concept.
What, then, was the point of the article? As a refutation to conservatives when Obama let slip that America wasn’t a Christian nation, the conclusion seemed only to highlight that if it wasn’t a de jure plurality, it was a de facto one. That the article also made the argument, however, that long-term democracies in Europe and Asia have become less religious overall seems to come very close to positing that religion as a power structure is working in counter to that of a secular state, and that the state’s continued existence in its present form relies on a manipulation of its adversary – or vice versa.
Well, duh, but then which one is happening? George Washington’s farewell address can be taken as probably the most tongue-in-cheek digs at political hegemony possible, at least from a 20th century perspective, but he probably meant it in earnest, and in America now, evangelism is on the rise. The solace granted, at least in my perspective, is that the party of the Moral Majority or the Religious Right isn’t in power now, but that’s anything but a permanent prospect.
I always had a problem with religion. Well, not religion per se, but monotheistic religions that require proselytization - active conscription. In a government ostensibly founded on mutual tolerance, how can it wrap around the paradox of having to tolerate intolerance?
It doesn’t, that’s how.