Conrad Black: The Enlightenment has mutated, and this threatens our civilization

Readers will recall that I concluded last week with a promise to try to develop some thoughts that emerged in that column but which there was not space to complete. After my expression of reservations about severely condemning people for minor errors of conduct, I referred to a wider sociocultural problem of what has become a great schism in our civilization.

The Middle Ages were generally an age of faith, which ended with a combination of the Renaissance, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, and broadly, the Enlightenment. For a time ecclesiastical and secular authority collaborated, as between Henry VIII and his great chancellor Cardinal Wolsey, and Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu, founder of the modern French state and of that continuing monument of the Enlightenment, the French Academy. I made the point that while the Enlightenment did not begin as being atheistic, the concept of reason was quickly subsumed into skepticism, and the Enlightenment has generally evolved over five centuries toward the complete dismissal of religion as contrary to reason. 

The schism is that the great majority of people in the West, and certainly in Canada, believe that there is some sort of supernatural spiritual force or intelligence, whether they translate this into religious practice or not, but that the academic communities, the media, and the higher levels of government are all almost entirely in the hands of atheists, and in many cases, aggressive atheists. Recruitment to the clergy in the Roman Catholic and Evangelical Churches are increasing, and attendance at their services is steady or rising, but in the salons of the publicly influential, any reference to religion, other than as an antiquarian superstition, causes anyone who raises the subject to be stared at as if he or she had two heads.

Exceptions are made for the Muslims and Canada’s native people. Parliament has passed a motion praising the civilizing value of Islam and claiming that there is a…

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