Freedom is not free. Nor is is a bequest from one generation to the next. It is a living thing that demands the blood of Patriots and Tyrants. It is a brutal cycle that never ends.
YEHUDAH MIRSKY, The American Interest
Michael Walzer struggles to explain the failure of secular liberation movements to overcome the religious cultures of the liberated.
Once upon a time, a not-so-very-old story went, there was religion. A powerful phenomenon in its time, it had since become tamed in the cool light of reason and evolved, according to the generous of spirit and historically minded, into an intermittently helpful and mostly harmless handmaiden to the great projects of secularism and modernity as they barreled their way along the train tracks of history. There were, to be sure, some who tried to hop off the train, or even to attempt to turn it around. These were called “fundamentalists”, rear-guard atavists who were to be pitied and, when really necessary, put in their place.
It’s easy for soi-disant intellectuals to dismiss “fundamentalists” as those who “…cling to guns or religion…” for they stand athwart the path of “pr0gress” warning of dire consequences.
This culturally single-lane story of inevitable modernist secularism is in retrospect so unconnected from reality that one can hardly believe how commonplace it was—and occasionally still is—in Western elite circles, where the claims of religious actors were instinctively translated into something “real”—which is to say, into the bloodless and pliant language of economics, political science, or social psychology.
History is many things, but only the most shallow of fools thinks history is in any way inevitable.
One of our British cousins of an earlier era warned us of this very cycle:
AS I PASS through my incarnations in every age and race,
I make my proper prostrations to the Gods of the Market Place.
Peering through reverent fingers I watch them flourish and fall,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings, I notice, outlast them all.
Another generation without history stumbling into the same well worn traps.
But it just doesn’t work. Observe our world today. In looking at the vast mess sprawling from western China through Central and South Asia, from Turkey to Sudan, and from Iran to Algiers, the salience of Islam is inescapable. Islam and Christianity alike thrive in sub-Saharan Africa. Christianity holds sway in the Americas, regularly in Evangelical and Pentecostal dispensation, and, in the Orthodox, is nearly as omnipresent in Russia these days, as well as in much of Eastern Europe. In Israel, traditional Judaism in its various forms is as powerful as ever. If one allows for non-Abrahamic and non-deistic forms of religion, most of Asia counts as well. Note that religion of one kind or another is alive and kicking not just in traditional societies, but also in societies that look modern—indeed in societies whose political and legal institutions are paragons of what Weber called formal rationality. Religious commitment and passion, whatever one thinks of them, are powerful political forces that must be reckoned with. The biggest global exceptions—and they are only partial exceptions—are Western Europe and slices of bicoastal North America.
Oh aye, they have followed the call of the Gods of the Market Place, even as we watch those false gods totter and stumble.
Some of us watch aghast as one of the last vestiges of sanity in the Western World abandons it’s traditions and bases, to follow the trends of the market place. Others celebrate.. it.
I tip my hat to Glenn Instapundit Reynolds and join in his conclusion:
…Rosalind Hackett thinks that militant Christianity is likely to be the big religious force of the 21st Century. Increasingly, I think she’s likely to be right.
Which will be some well deserved bad luck.