“America’s Secular Challenge: The Rise of a New National Religion,” by Herbert London New York: Brief Encounters / Encounter Books, 2008, 104 pages, $18.
“Belief matters” are the opening words of scholar Herbert London’s 14th book. Godless radical secularism, he argues, is replacing our Judeo-Christian tradition with golden idols of multiculturalism, materialism, moral relativism, solipsism, selfishness instead of the common good, and infantilism that the welfare state spawns.
Such values cannot produce the bedrock values of cultural self-confidence and patriotism that the West’s reemerging struggle with radical Islam requires, London believes. “Decency, sacrifice, and heroism do not emerge spontaneously, and a great nation cannot retain its greatness while wallowing in a depraved culture,” writes London, president of the influential Hudson Institute think tank.
<[Editor’s Note: Read an interview with Herbert London. Go here now.]
What makes these traditional themes come to life are the bright brush strokes and fresh, penetrating details that this quick-witted former New York University humanities professor brings to his passionate polemic.
The “very term secularism – from the Latin saeculum, meaning “time” or “age” – implies a lack of timelessness and constancy for the secularists’ moral code,” writes London, now president of the influential Hudson Institute think tank. “As Catholic historian James Hitchcock explains: ‘To call someone secular means that he is completely time-bound, totally a child of his age, a creature of history, with no vision of eternity.’ ”
London identifies himself as a Jew who has “come to appreciate the role that Christianity plays in buttressing Western democracies . . . [T]he historical truth is that our way of life, including the liberty ensconced in liberalism, emerged from and is sustained by Christian principles.”
The religious figure he quotes approvingly most often is Pope Benedict XVI.
In place of traditional religious authority, the radical secularists invoke science, in London’s view. But genuine science by definition deals in tentative hypotheses and measurements of the natural universe.
Supernatural matters are beyond science, as are ontological questions such as, “Why are we here?” And much that passes for science, he writes, is scientism, a belief based on faith that science eventually will be able to explain all of today’s mysteries.
“It is indeed doubtful that scientists will ever be able to fully explain the universe,” writes London, after summarizing philosopher Kurt Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem thus: “A logical system of propositions cannot be both complete and true.”
Even so, he writes, the Judeo-Christian tradition generally has favored rational, if not always free, thought. “Theology and science share the same spirit of inquiry, though they approach inquiry from different angles, and the two were and remain for the most part perfectly capable of working in tandem toward knowledge.”
Those who love the free play of ideas will enjoy how masterfully London dances a path between atheism and Islam, between free market capitalism and socialist secularism, and between radical individualism and scholarly political correctness. This excellent idea-rich book’s thought exercises will build mental muscles.
[Editor’s Note: Get Herbert London’s book. Go here now.]
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