Piano players have an expression: “When in doubt, go Gershwin”. George and Ira have written some song to fit every mood, and it’s almost always excellent.
Tocqueville performs a similar function for writers on American democracy. James Poulos quotes the man on the development of religion under conditions of democracy. It reads as if it were written this morning on an Apple MacBook:
Not content with the discovery that there is nothing in the world by one reaction and one Creator, he is still embarrassed by the primary division of things and seeks to expand and simplify his conception by including God and the universe in one great whole. If one finds a philosophical system which teaches that all things […] are only to be considered as the several parts of an immense Being who alone remains eternal in the midst of the continual flux and transformation of all that composes Him, one may be sure that such a system, although it destroys human individuality, or rather just because it destroys it, will have secret charms for men living under democracies. All their habits of mind prepare them to conceive it and put them on the way toward adopting it. It naturally attracts their imagination and holds it fixed. It fosters the pride and soothes the laziness of their minds.
Of all the different philosophical systems used to explain the universe, I believe that pantheism is one of those most fitted to seduce the mind in democratic ages. All those who still appreciate the true nature of man’s greatness should combine in the struggle against it.
Read the whole post, including most usefully the comments by the always-interesting Razib, who runs the amazing blog Gene Expression.