Charles baron de Montesquieu was an advocate of the separation of powers in government and one of the world’s foremost political thinkers. Of all the sources that the Founders could have cited, he is next to the Bible, quoted 8.3 percent of the time (1 of 12 quotes, came from him). He was not a Christian, and yet he believed three things were critical to a republic’s survival. The first was morality. The second was education. And the third, surprisingly, a small fixed geographic boundary. The last is found in the states, despite the broad expanse of the nation across the width of the continent. While he had no personal faith preference, he held strong views about the compatibility of certain faiths and culture. He believed some religions were best equipped to support healthy government.
He observed that Christianity was a “… stranger to mere despotic power” because the “mildness so frequently recommended in the Gospel is incompatible with the despotic rage with which a prince punishes his subjects, and exercises himself in cruelty.” He pointed out that this faith that forbade a “plurality of wives” and thus contributed to social stability through the nuclear family. He was explicit in terms of his view of Islam, noting that Islamic leaders “incessantly give or receive death” whereas Christianity “renders their princes … less cruel.” The Christian religion, he observed, “has hindered despotic power … and has carried into the heart of Africa the manners and laws of Europe” and of course, behind those laws were Biblical principles. Comparing Christianity and Islam, he unequivocally declared, “… we ought, without any further examination, to embrace the one [Christianity] and reject the other [Islam].”
His argument was that the proof of the faith was in the social order it created, “… for it is much easier to prove that religion ought to humanize the manners of men than that any particular religion is true.” Islam was, he noted, a “religion … given by a conqueror. The Mahometan [Muslim] religion, which speaks only by the sword, acts still upon men with that destructive spirit with which it was founded.”
Montesquieu was not a Christian, merely a political observer; and one admired by the Founders. Note his perspective of Europe,
“When the Christian religion, two centuries ago, became unhappily divided into Catholic and Protestant, the people of the north embraced the Protestant, and those of the south adhered still to the Catholic. The reason is plain: the people of the north have, and will forever have, a spirit of liberty and independence, which the people of the south have not; and therefore a religion which has no visible head is more agreeable to the independence of the climate than that which has one.”
More simply, the model of Catholicism, with its Pope, matched the governments of Monarchs; and Protestantism, the republican governments of the common people.
“God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift from God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
And this from a non-Christian. May God have mercy on the nation.