church and state

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

George Washington, farewell address, 1796

One thought on “church and state

  1. didn’t he also say to avoid entangling foreign alliances, etc.?

    we certainly have broken step with that advice and such action has, until recent times, not only led us to be the global leader but prevented catastrophic conclusions to many of the earth-shaking events of the twentieth century (the second world war comes to mind).

    of course, maybe he only meant the two in tandem. for it has been our “entanglement” with other nations, combined with our overzealous moral export, that has led to the current situation of us expending international political capital and quickly losing our grasp on the dominant global position to which we so tenuously cling.

    i also think it’s silly to suppose that morality cannot exist without religion, but perhaps on a national scale this is accurate.

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