There are two rival points of view when it comes to human progress. The first is the pessimistic biblical one, which states that progress is impossible because there is nothing new under the sun. Empires rise and fall, but though names and superficial customs change, Man's nature and behavior remains essentially the same. The rival view, which could reasonably be styled the Enlightenment perspective, is that humanity progresses as its scientific knowledge base expands and the technology derived from that knowledge base is improved. Old and outdated modes of thought will be cast aside, and eventually humanity will arrive at ... something.
Precisely what that something will be is never explained in any degree of detail, but we are given to understand that it will involve some level of societal secularism, sexual and racial equality, and as little physical labor as possible.
G..K. Chesterton was one of the foremost advocates of the biblical view, whereas the four-headed New Atheist hydra of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett are collectively the most outspoken proponents of the Enlightenment. Or rather, what is these days termed "Enlightenment 2.0," the first Enlightenment having rather notoriously failed to deliver any of the benefits once promised as progressive inevitabilities by the likes of Rousseau and Voltaire. As Daniel Dennett rather ruefully admitted in "Breaking the Spell," even the most basic promise of the Enlightenment, the disappearance of religion from the world scene, actually looks less likely now than it did 200 years ago.
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Since the beginning of the 20th century, Enlightenment progressives have celebrated every incipient sign of Christian decline, due to their view of Christianity as the great obstacle to worldwide Enlightenment. And they were right to see it that way, for no religion in history has ever demonstrated such a unique combination of convincing moral suasion with popular appeal; any religion that historians have credited with toppling an empire and ending the ancient institution of slavery should not be counted lightly. They were not right, however, to assume that the secular values and society of the Enlightenment were capable of filling the void that the decline of Christianity in Western Europe, and, to a lesser extent, the United States, would bring.
Chesterton famously wrote: "When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing – they believe in anything." While there are a statistically insignificant percentage of people who insist they do believe in nothing – although according to the recent Pew Survey, 33 percent of the atheists surveyed believe in either God or an impersonal force – the empirical evidence strongly suggests that Chesterton was correct and the godless who faithfully believe in the inevitability of a shiny, sexy, secular science fiction society are incorrect.
The most recent European outrages seen in the media are just the beginning. Whether it is British schoolchildren being forced to pray to Allah by their teacher, government judges declaring the valid jurisdiction of Talmudic and Shariah law, or the simple breakdown of peaceful, rational society, it is clear that post-Christian society is far more likely to resemble pagan pre-Christian society than it is to develop into the godless vision of an equalitarian, sexually androgynous workers' paradise so often sold to the masses by secular prophets of one form or another.
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It is deeply ironic that those who subscribe most strongly to the ideas of the superiority of scientific evidence and rational materialism should reject both when it comes to examining the available evidence and hoping for the realization of abstract notions that have no basis in the material world. Those who have rejected Christianity and the cultural tradition of the West in favor of secular cultural relativism would do well to bear in mind that the benefits of Western society are not a given and that secular society is not a destination, but merely a way station on the route back to the pagan barbarism of the past.