Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Modern orthodoxy, modern heresy

Many pride themselves on their commitment to principles of the Enlightenment, but what would a modern Voltaire do?

London, United Kingdom - The last decade or so has seen an upsurge in self-conscious and forthright scepticism. The word itself has come to have a quite particular meaning. It refers to intellectual combativeness of a very narrow sort. Self-declared sceptics rail against the power of organised religion to bewilder the unwary. They worry about our appetite for conspiracy theories, for wacky "alternative" medicine and for all manner of pseudo-mystical trickery and sleight-of-hand. The city of Enlightenment, they never tire of telling us, is besieged by a host of enemies.

From How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World in 2004 to Counterknowledge in 2008 via The God Delusion and God is Not Great in 2006 and 2007 respectively, publishers found that noisy atheism and jeremiads about the decline and fall of reason were gratifyingly successful. Denunciations of popular delusions were perennially popular.

It is worth pausing for a moment to ask why that was. Sceptics love diagnosing others. Let's see how they like it. What we had in all this was an opportunity for people to enjoy the sensation of risk without danger. Western intellectuals who complained about the power of religion gave their audiences an opportunity to fall in love with them - and with themselves - as the heirs of Voltaire and Jefferson. Read More