Stephen Strehle is a leading scholar of church/state issues. In this volume, he focuses his rigorous historical analysis and philosophical acumen upon a topic of great interest today and source of cultural wars around the globe—the process of secularization. The book starts with a discussion of early capitalism and how it saw the real world functioning well-enough on its own principles of individual struggle and self-interest, without needing religious or moral principles to meddle in its affairs and eventually dispelling the need for any intelligent design or providential orchestration of life through the work of Darwin. The book then discusses the growth of the secular point of view: how historians dismissed the impact of religion in developing modern culture, how scientists conceived of the universe running on self-sufficient or mechanistic principles, and how people no longer looked to the providential hand of God to explain their suffering. The book ends with a discussion of how the Deist concept of human autonomy became a political policy in America through Jefferson’s concept of a wall of separation between church and state and how the US Supreme Court proceeded to dismiss the importance of religion in shaping or justifying the values of the nation and its laws. The book is accessible to most upper-level and graduate students in a wide-variety of disciplines, keeping technical and foreign words to a minimum and leaving scholarly details or debates to its extensive notes.
Chapter Seven: The Development of the Wall
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The Development of the Wall
There was no greater political ally in helping to forward the basic agenda of Jefferson on religious issues than James Madison. The two Virginians shared almost identical convictions on the issues, although the precise nature of Madison’s “private” religious opinions remains much more obscure than those of his distinguished colleague, whose “private” letters were published and filled with theological commentary. Unfortunately, Madison says very little about the subject in his public words and writings, only some vague testimony about his belief in a “God All Powerful, wise and good,” who is “essential to the moral order of the World” and a terse comment later in life about Christianity being the “best and purest religion.”1 And yet, it is well-known that religion played an important role in his early and overall maturation. At the age of twelve, he was sent to a boarding school and tutored by Rev. Donald Robertson, the Scottish Presbyterian headmaster, who instructed him in the classics, literature, science, and Reformed theology. Four years later, he went to Princeton, the academic bastion of New Light Presbyterianism, and experienced particular inspiration from its president, John Witherspoon, who applied his religious convictions to the “general principles of law and politics” and inspired many future leaders of the nation with his criticism of Tory policies and firm belief in religious liberty.2 As a Virginian, Madison also experienced the ← 217...
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