Rawlings School of Divinity


Master of Arts in Global Studies (MAGS)


Fred H. Smith


American Revolution, Bible, Christian Nation, French Revolution, Ideology, Thomas Jefferson


Comparative Methodologies and Theories | History | Philosophy | Religion | United States History


One effective way to compare the fruits of biblical Christianity with modernism is to contrast the ideologies and outcomes of the American and French Revolutions. Pre-revolutionary America was rich with biblical influence. Adherents of both Protestantism and Deism sought a “Christian society,” and while revolutionaries drew from both biblical Reformation and secular Enlightenment thought, much of the latter was biblical thought in secular form. Ministers employed the Bible extensively to support the Revolution. This relative theological consensus encouraged religious practice and a political system that accommodated dispute. Human rights were secure thanks to man’s subordinate position under God. Even after much secularization, the state has protected the religious rights of groups and parents. America has enjoyed consistent political freedom and stability as well as unparalleled economic and military strength. In pre-revolutionary France, the Catholic Church suppressed Reformation thought and bound itself to the monarchy. Voltaire and Mme du Châtelet insisted the Bible was not to be trusted. Rousseau replaced God with an absolute notion of Reason. Cabanis replaced religion with “scientific” ideology. The results were severe anticlericalism and a militant form of secularism known as laïcité. The Cult of Reason predicted unanimity, and the Cult of the Nation transformed liberty into conformity with Reason. Instead of limiting power, the French consolidated it and swerved between failed attempts at republicanism and either empire or restored monarchy. Economically, capitalism came later and remained weaker. French religious policy has restricted both religious groups and individual public practice. The research indicates that biblical influence in a society is the greatest guarantor of liberty, economic prosperity, and freedom of practice for all religions.