Garry Wills on Enlightenment

Sorry for not posting for so long…I’ll try to get back up to speed.

Here’s a quotation from Garry Wills’ yearning for the Enlightenment’s return (written shortly after President Bush’s 2004 election):

The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of the American electorate. It is not what they had experienced from this country in the past. In fact, we now resemble those nations less than we do our putative enemies.

Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? Not in France or Britain or Germany or Italy or Spain. We find it in the Muslim world, in Al Qaeda, in Saddam Hussein’s Sunni loyalists. Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed.

In an effort to see past his own nose, he decides to ignore it completely. In France we may not find a ‘rage at secularity’, but we certainly find a secular rage. In Britain we may not find ‘religious intolerance’, but we certainly find intolerance of religion. Throughout much of Europe, we may not find ‘fear of and hatred of modernity’, but we certainly find modern fear and modern hatred. At the center of each of these characteristics lie the fundamentalist zeal, the epistemological arrogance, the unthinking imperialism that remains the efficient cause of the rest. A return to the Enlightenment would be a return to the veil of ignorance and cultural blinders that Wills himself would doubtlessly repudiate.


2 thoughts on “Garry Wills on Enlightenment

  1. Very nice, Garry–he also ignores the fact that, in dear old Britain and France et al. you can find much of his litany o’ horrors in full swing. Just not with official governmental approval, not yet. But, before too long, the post-Christian west is going to have to make a decision: to stand for something or accept dhimmitude.

    And come now: does Wills really think denying abortion on demand, or “fear and hatred” of modernity, compares at all to the sanctions of even moderately Islamic countries? And does he really believe that dissatisfaction with market structures and modern entertainment is equivalent to flying jetliners into buildings? I feel like I’m attacking a straw man–but, sadly, I’m not.

  2. I just read the article. It contained something like:

    “Can a nation that believes more fervently in the Virgin Birth than evolution still be called Enlightened?”

    Well. And this from an ostensible Catholic. “Why I am a Catholic?” I don’t know, Garry, you tell me.

    Two points:
    First of all, the Virgin Birth is an absolutely unshakeable tenet of the faith for which men have died and (somewhat regrettably) killed for two thousand years. Evolution is a scientific theory, and currently the best one we have. But evolution will never be–and should never be–hardened into a creed, no matter how much the Darwinists may want it. More evidence will come up, the system will have to be tweaked, and only those who don’t believe religiously in evolution will be able to follow the evidence. On the other hand, “…by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”

    Who on earth could fervently believe in evolution? Even if one is entirely convinced of it, it’s remotely akin to believing that Pierre is the capital of South Dakota: it’s a mere fact, which (of itself) imparts no meaning. Re: the Virgin Birth, however: was there ever a person who did not believe fervently about it, one way or another?

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