Luciano Pellicani ‘s “The Cultural War between Athens and Jerusalem: The American Case” appears in Telos 162 (Spring 2013). Read the full version online at the Telos Online website, or purchase a print copy of the issue in our store.
Despite what Harold Berman claimed, the writers of the American Constitution were not inspired by strong religious convictions. On the contrary, as typical men of the Enlightenment they were severe critics of Christianity, considering it an obscurantist and intolerant tradition in all its versions. Hence their cultural battle to achieve the institutionalization of what Thomas Jefferson called “the wall of separation between State and Church” that would guarantee the greatest religious freedom. A freedom that was periodically threatened by fundamentalist movements which, in the name of Jerusalem, sought—and still seek—to establish a confessional state governed by the truth revealed in the Bible whereas the founding fathers hoped that “what Athens was in miniature, America will be in magnitude.” It is not true that America was born modern and progressive, as Ernest Gellner has maintained. It became so through the cultural war between Athens and Jerusalem that began in the eighteenth century and is still in progress.