Mark Tooley speaks with Robert Reilly, author of America on Trial: A Defense of the Founding. Reilly argues that America’s founding was rooted in Hebraic, Christian, and Greek thought, rather than the Enlightenment principle of radical individualism. Reilly discusses how his work was inspired particularly by those in conservative religious circles who have argued that moral degeneration in the United States today can be explained by an American foundation based in such radical individualism. Reilly demonstrates how he combatted this claim by studying and drawing connections between the history of Western civilization and the principles upheld by the American Founders. In particular, Reilly focuses on the monotheism of Judaism and the concept of the imago dei; Greek philosophy and the concept of Reason, or Logos; the arrival of Christ and the development of Christian thought; and the principles of constitutional rule such as the sovereignty, equality, and consent of the people that were fleshed out during the Middle Ages.
While Reilly recognizes that a break in these principles preceded the foundation of the United States, he argues that the American founding was a reconnection to such principles. Reilly argues that because of this connection, the United States maintains a capacity for the renewal of such principles in the present age.