One of the main reasons our Constitution writers separated church and state might have been the realization, once they actually knew each other, that any society driven by absolute "pure" morality tended to create the worst hells on earth for living people.
We see it now in every cult from every major religion known to humanity. You can read about single sad self-destructiveness on sites like the "Darwin Awards".
But now, when I hear some of the Republican candidates believing God told them to become President and forcing the country back to its Christian roots, I am appalled at the idea that they not only want to wipe out the 20th century, but the entire two millenia since Jesus. I recently read an essay by the renowned philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) explaining why such a thing as a "Christian Society" cannot exist in the modern environment because of a basic social flaw. I let him explain it to you now, with paragraphs divided by me. This is his column.
The natural impulse of the vigorous person of decent character is to attempt to do good, but if he is deprived of all political power and of all opportunity to influence events, he will be deflected from his natural course and will decide that the important thing is to be good.
This is what happened to the early Christians. It led to a conception of personal holiness as something quite independant of beneficient action, since holiness had to be something that could be achieved by people who were impotent in action.
Social virtue came therefore to be excluded from Christian ethics. To this day, conventional Christians think an adulterer more wicked than a politician who takes bribes, although the latter probably does a thousand times as much harm.
The medieval conception of virtue was of something feeble, wishy-washy, and sentimental. The most virtuous man was the man who retired from the world: the only men of action who were regarded as saints were those who wasted the lives and sustenance of their subjects in fighting the Turks, like St. Louis.
The Church would never regard a man as a saint because he reformed the finances, or the criminal law, or the judiciary. Such mere contributions to human welfare would be regarded as of no importance.
I do not believe there is a single saint in the whole calendar whose saintship is due to a work of public utility.
With this separation between the social and the moral person there went an increasing separaation between soul and body, which has survived in Christian metaphysics and in systems derived from Descartes. One may say, broadly speaking, that the body represents the social and public parts of a man, whereas the soul represents the private part.
In emphasizing the soul, Christian ethics has made itself completely individualistic. So I think it is clear that the net result of all the centuries of Christianity has been to make men more egoistic, more shut up in themselves, than nature made them: for the impulses that naturally take a man outside the walls of his ego are those of sex, parenthood, and patriotism or herd instinct.
Sex the Church did everything it could to decry and degrade: family affectionn was decried by Christ himself and by the bulk of his followers; and patriotism could find no place among the subject populations of the Roman Empire.
The polemic against the family in the Gospels is a matter that has not received the attention it deserves. The Church treats the Mother of Christ with reverence, but He himself showed little of this attitude. "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" (John ii,4) is His way of speaking to her. He says also that He has come to set a aman at variance with his father, the daughter against her mother, and he that loveth father and mother more than Him is not worthy of Him. (Matthew x, 35-37).
All this means the breakup of the biological family tie for the sake of creed- an attitude which had a great deal to do with the intolerance that came with the spread of Christianity.
This individualism culminated in the doctrine of the immortality of the individual soul, which was to enjoy hereafter endless bliss or endless woe according to circumstances. For example, if you died immediatly after a priest had sprinkled water on you while pronouncing certain words, you inherited eternal bliss. Whereas if, after a long and virtuous life you happened to be struck by lightning at a moment when you were using bad language because you had broken a bootlace, you would inherit eternal torment.
I do not say that the modern Protestant Chritian believes this, nor even the modern Catholic Christian who has not been adequately instructed in theology; but I do say that this is the orthodox doctrine and was firmly believed until recent times.
The Spaniards in Mexico and Peru used to baptize Indian infants and then immediatly dash their brains out. By this means they secured that these infants went to Heaven. No orthodox Christian can find any logical reason for condemning their action, although all nowadays do so.
In countless ways the doctrine of personal immortality ion its Christian form has had disastrous effects upon morals,, and the metaphysical separation of soul and body has had disastrous effects upon philosophy.