De Tocqueville on Christian and Islam Similarities


I began once again to read the voluminous writings of Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” which have been gathering dust on my shelves for some time now.

His thoughts on America in the 1830’s are still relevant today.  I wasn’t that deep into the first volume before I came across a passage that resonates with many today regarding  the difference between Christianity and Islam.

There are the anti-Muslim voices among us who take a certain pleasure out of comparing the barbarism of radical Muslims today claiming that Islam believes in putting to death all those they rule over who do not accept the teachings of Mohammad.  Christians, they are quick to point out, were never this brutal and what little had occurred disappeared in the dark ages.

But de Tocqueville sets us straight on this as he points out how the small colony of Connecticut utilized elements of the Bible to promulgate their code of laws back in 1650.

“The legislators of Connecticut”, de Tocqueville tells us, “begin with the penal laws. and strange to say, they borrow their provisions from the text of the Holy Writ.”

“Whoever shall worship any other God than the Lord” says the preamble of the code, “shall surely be put to death”

“This is followed by ten or twelve enactments of the same kind, copied verbatim from the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  Blasphemy, sorcery, adultery and rape were punished with death; an outrage offered by a son to his parents was to be expiated by the same penalty.  The legislation of a rude and half-civilized society was thus applied to an enlightened and moral community.” (Vol.I, p.37)

De Tocqueville does point out in the next line however “that the punishment of death was never more frequently prescribed by statute, and never more rarely enforced.”

Though this observation gives some credence to religious fundamentalist claims today that “America was founded as a Christian nation” (not really since Connecticut and some other states who early in their forming used Bible passages to codify laws were not yet a collective nation)  it shows that even documentation that holds them accountable for wanting to enforce these extreme practices were simply not routinely carried out by a civilized society.  What holds true for Christians holds equally well for Muslims.

We take many things out of context in sacred scriptures to justify whatever actions we want to toward those who refuse to adhere to one set of religious views but do so often with a a very large log lodged deeply in our own ocular orifice.  I find it rewarding that a visiting French dignitary was broad-minded enough to point out this flawed attempt at establishing a code of law while elevating a new nation in the infancy of its democratic yearnings

One response to “De Tocqueville on Christian and Islam Similarities

  1. CT was not alone in this regard. Catholics and Jews were not allowed to vote in many states or own property or…. Even after the constitution was ratified, it took many (many) decades for some state constitutions to come into compliance and some still today contain vestiges of such religious tomfoolery.

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