Wrested from the bitter reactionary grip of religion
We had a good time (I did anyway) with Roger Scruton’s review of Anthony Grayling’s new book, so now let’s have a different but related kind of good time with another look at Anthony Grayling’s review of John Gray’s latest book. I flagged it up here last month but it’s so relevant to the Scruton review that I feel like flagging it up again.
Now let us ask whether secular Enlightenment values of pluralism, democracy, the rule of independently and impartially administered law, freedom of thought, enquiry and expression, and liberty of the individual conform to the model of a monolithic ideology such as Catholicism, Islam or Stalinism. Let us further ask how Gray imagines that these values are direct inheritances from Christianity – the Christianity of the Inquisition, which burned to death any who sought to assert just such values. Indeed, the history of the modern European and Europe-derived world is precisely the history of liberation from the hegemony of Christianity. I shall be so bold as to refer the reader to the case for this claim in my forthcoming full-length discussion of it, Towards the Light.
The very book Scruton tried so hard to patronize the other day.
As to the weary old canard about the 20th-century totalitarianisms: it astonishes me how those who should know better can fail to see them as quintessentially counter-Enlightenment projects…They were counter-Enlightenment projects because they rejected the idea of pluralism and its concomitant liberties of thought and the person, and in the time-honoured unEnlightened way forcibly demanded submission to a monolithic ideal…Most of what was achieved in the history of the West from the 16th century onwards – most notably science and the realisation of the values listed above – was wrested from the bitter reactionary grip of religion inch by painful and frequently bloody inch. How can Gray so far ignore this bald fact of history as to make the modern secular West the inheritor of the ideals and aspirations of what it fought so hard to free itself from (and is still bedevilled by)?
Having a book contract probably helps with the ignoring.