Posted on | November 7, 2012 | 5 Comments
Read it all, but emphasis here:
Religion for intellectuals. Normally, I would have said number three was “reforming the academy,” but I believe this is where the fight for the academy is centered. Recently, a number of books by secular intellectuals have noted the disaster that is postmodern relativism—the nihilist philosophy that has corrupted and gutted Western liberal education. Education’s End, by Anthony T. Kronman, Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians, by Marcello Pera, and What Ever Happened to Modernism?, by Gabriel Josipovici, come to mind. All lament the abandonment of our commitment to the Great Conversation—the intellectual’s belief that the creative tension of the uniquely brilliant Western literary and philosophical canon can lead us in the direction of moral truth.
But the authors cannot fully grasp the nettle of the solution. Many assume that the Great Conversation depended on the sort of open mind only secularism can provide. As Kronman puts it: “Every religion insists, at the end of the day, that there is only one right answer to the question of life’s meaning,” thus rendering the pluralism of the Great Conversation impossible. I would contend the opposite: only the existence of a God in whose image we are created can support the notion of moral truth at all. It was always Judeo-Christianity, and that alone, that made the Great Conversation possible. Pera understands this intellectually, but cannot really plunk for faith. And therein lies the problem. The triumph of science, the comfort of Western life, and a sophisticated elite virulently hostile to religion have all contributed to an intellectual atmosphere of unbelief—a sense that atheism should be the default mode of reasonable, thinking people. That is a mere prejudice and needs to be answered in the culture, not with Bible-thumping literalism and small-minded judgmentalism—nor with banal happy-talk optimism—but by sound argument made publicly, unabashedly, and without fear. John Adams and the other Founders were right about this: an irreligious people cannot be free. Liberty lives in the palace of moral truth, and you can’t build that palace on the empty air.