“Post-Enlightenment” Stupidity

Dreher:

It should come as no surprise, with the Enlightenment experiment ending in cultural isolation and dispersal, philosophical aimlessness, and even spiritual desolation, that thoughtful Christians and others are delving into monastic wisdom, looking for fragments upon which to build a meaningful life amid the ruin of Western culture.

Via Jamelle, I see Conor Friesendorf has already poked some holes in Dreher’s whole “civilization in decline” thesis, but left unmentioned the misguidedness–not to mention profound arrogance–of declaring the “Enlightenment experiment” over.

Look, anyone who’s taken a high school social studies course knows that the American Constitution is firmly rooted in Enlightenment values. Without Locke, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Hobbes, etc., there might very well not be a Constitution. So it’s hard to see how you could call the Enlightenment a failure without also suggesting that the very basis for American values is completely bankrupt.

Now, I don’t think that America’s a failed experiment, and I’m pretty sure Dreher doesn’t either. Instead, he’s engaging in a common pastime for evangelical conservatives: completely ignoring or misinterpreting the influence of Enlightenment values on our society. Never mind that the philosophy of Voltaire is one of the reasons why Dreher has the right to spout off whatever half-assed notion pops into his head. Enlightenment = secularist = bad! Medieval notions of good versus evil = churchy = good!

The reality is that when America’s leaders stray away from Enlightenment notions of rationality, secularism, civil rights and so on, it tends to land us in some very deep shit. We’re supposed to think that it’s a coincidence that America is so screwed after eight years under a president whose personal philosophy has more in common with the batshit perpetual crusading and Manichaenism of Dark Ages Christianity than the Enlightenment thinkers Jefferson and Paine were reading?

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