The modern west is currently engaged in a deeply incoherent and, in multiple ways, dangerous experiment. On the one hand, some sectors of our society have chosen to push the old Christian insight about human freedom to absurd lengths. In this view, human beings are radically free–from God, from history, from nature, even from ‘human nature,’ which is now often believed to be an ideological ‘construct’ that is involved for repressive purposes. But what is this radical autonomy if not a modern dogma, conceived in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? […]
On the other hand, many of us now believe that all previous arguments about human uniqueness and and non-natural or supernatural dimensions to the human person have been exploded by scientific advances. All our vaunted independence of mind and spirit, oiur free political and economic institutions, our ‘lifestyle choices,’ and our pride in our artistic creativity in music, painting, sculpture, poetry, and architecture are an illusion. [… But] can any society continue to believe in freedom as its foundation when it smost distinguished scientists argue that human behavior is roughly 60 percent the result of genes and the remainder ‘a complex algorithm of genes and environment?'”
These words make the introduction of Robert Royal’s book The God that did not Fail, in which he expresses his views on the situation of religion in the West.
Royal’s thesis is clear and simple, yet not so obvious for many of us: the secularist movement, especially that of the Enlightenments, has failed to completely supress religion, more accurately Christianity, from the Western mind. In a series of nine chapters, the author retraces the development of secularism and religiosity, and the interplay between both, in Western history from ancient Greece through Rome and the medieval period, to the modern era, and explores how religious faith shaped our world. Royal is not, in fact, the only or the first author to develop such thesis: Paul Veyne and Maurice Sartre also have argued for a similar idea. For example, such discernably Western tenets, such as tolerance, were the result of the bloody wars of religions and the Thirty-year war that bled Europe in the 16-17th centuries. Other central events, such as the French and English revolutions, owed more to the infuence of reformist Christian groups, the Calvinists and Jansenists, than to strictly speaking secularist advocates. Despite the fact that secularization has touched all aspects of Western society, traditional religion (Christianity) continues–albeit in a diminished form–to sustain Western civilization, especially in two of its most important legacies: the belief in human dignity and the rightness of ordered liberty. The question we may ask is how long, even if we continue to sincerely believe in these two concepts, will our culture survive if we deny precisely their ultimate origins in the Gospels. But current trends rather point to a future revival of traditional religion, outside Europe at first and, perhaps, in the longer term, in Europe itself as well. What will happen only history will tell.