The Cultural War between Athens and Jerusalem in American History
This article refutes the theory that American political and economic institutions, founded on the rigid separation between State and religious churches, is the outcome of the application of Christian principles, and in particular of Calvinist ones. On the contrary, the author—by resorting to primary sources—shows that the Founding Fathers of the United States of America were deists and illuminists and that the principle of religious freedom affirmed by the Constitution served to impede Calvinists and other Christian churches from establishing confessional and intolerant States. The discussion starts from John Locke’s philosophy, because the Founding Fathers see their own institutions as a perfected version of the English ones. The principles included in the Bill of Rights owe a debt to Locke’s liberalism and, in particular, to his idea of religious toleration and his defense of the inviolable and essential rights of the person. With regard to this English thinker, the author maintains that, notwithstanding his formal adherence to Christianity, he put himself outside the Christian tradition by affirming the autonomy of Reason and its reliance on Revelation.
Luciano PellicaniLUISS University in Rome