Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What happened to the Enlightenment?

When I started reading blogs about atheism and theism, around eight years ago, the debate was centered around the Enlightenment and it's impacts. Atheists, generally social liberals, claimed their tradition from the humanism of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, which were themselves rooted in Greek philosophy and influenced by aspects of Christian theology. Theists, normally conservative in outlook, responded to such arguments by attacking the Enlightenment narrative of progress and reason which, so the claim goes, brought us to the gas chambers of Nazi Germany and the gulags of Soviet Russia.

Now the culture wars have shifted fronts. Now the social media and blog posts are filled with fashionable social theory inherited from the neuroticism of the 60's youthful obsession the writings of 'young Marx' and postmodernism. Whereas once we argued about human autonomy, we now argue about identity politics. We scream out 'check your privilege' or 'show me the evidence' instead of reasoned argument on natural rights or our social duties to each other. Even the universalism of the Enlightenment is now denounced as eurocentric.


When did this occur? When did the legacy of the Enlightenment become eclipsed by polarized identity politics?

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