Monday, July 8, 2013

Religion and revolution: France and America contrasted

Over at Thomas Albert Howard takes a look at the French and American Revolutions' differing approach to religion:  July 4, July 14, and the Religious Questions. America's relative religious pluralism and diversity served to prevent a radically secular regime from arising from our revolution, while the situation in France with a religious tradition overwhelmingly allied with the ancien regime helped to foster a powerful anti-religious prejudice in that country's revolution.

Another example of the truth that America's Revolution built on customary principles of order, traditional rights and freedom of conscience, while the French Revolution began in abstraction and quickly degenerated into tyranny and and terror.


JMS said...

It is unusual that nobody commented on an AC posting. I have weighed in before about how anachronistic and unhistorical these useless comparisons between the good-godly American Revolution versus the bad-atheistic French Revolution, and have asked that the French-bashing cease. But, I guess that’s impossible.

So, how about using the Second American Revolution to test if the secessionist South equals the good-godly side of the equation because the Confederate Constitution explicitly “declared its Christian identity,” whereas the U.S. Constitutional government of Lincoln equaled a bad-“godless” endeavor?

From the NHC’s Religion in the Civil War: The Southern Perspective website:

It’s abundantly clear, as recent scholarship has demonstrated that religion stood at the center of the Civil War for both sides. Both North and South looked to God for meaning, and each side believed—with equal fervor and certitude—that God was on its side. Many ministers, generals, leaders, and editors went so far as to proclaim that God had ordained the war and would determine its length, its damages, and its outcome. The victor would show, in other words, whose side God really supported. New England political and religious leaders had long proclaimed themselves God’s “chosen people.”

With the start of the Civil War, southerners laid claim to this “chosen” status, and not only presumed ultimate victory in what would turn out to be a long and bloody conflict, but also put God’s imprimatur on the Confederate national identity. In fact, the South claimed to be a uniquely Christian nation. The new Confederate Constitution, adopted on February 8, 1861, and ratified on March 11, 1861, officially declared its Christian identity, “invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God.” Southern leaders chose as their national motto Deo Vindice (“God will avenge”). Confederate President Jefferson Davis proclaimed that the time had come “to recognize our dependence upon God … [and] supplicate his merciful protection.” This national acknowledgment of religious dependence, as the South frequently pointed out during the war in both the religious and the secular press, stood in stark contrast to the “godless” government of the North that ignored God in its constitution and put secular concerns above the sacred duties of Christian service and the divine commission.

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