One more from Distributist Review on the biblical and philosophical underpinnings of Christendom and how they differ from enlightenment ideals. I’m neither Catholic nor a distributist, but there’s some interesting stuff on this site.
Today, the principles of the “moderate” Enlightenment are what pass for a conservative inheritance to be opposed to the excesses of liberalism, an inheritance “We the People” were supposed to have “secured to ourselves and our posterity” following the American Revolution. These principles include:
• A hypothetical “social compact” or contract as the foundation of the State.
• The origin of political sovereignty in the “consent” of the governed (invariably presumed to have been given by those who happen to be wielding power).
• “Government by the people” according to the “sovereignty of the people,” meaning strict majority rule on all questions, including the most profound moral ones.
• Church-State separation and the non-“interference” of religion in politics.
• The confinement of religion, above all the revealed truths of Christianity, to the realm of “private” opinions and practices one is free to adopt (or to denounce) if it pleases him, but which are to have no controlling effect on law or public policy.
• The unlimited pursuit of gain, including the freedom to buy, sell and advertise anything whatsoever the majority deems permissible by law.
• Total liberty of thought and action, both private and public, within the limits of a merely external “public peace” essentially reduced to the protection of persons and property from invasion by others—in sum, a “free-market society.”
• The dissolubility of marriage, and thus the family, as a mere civil contract founded on a revocable consent.
We are witnessing the final outcome of the operation of these “moderate” principles in the life of the individual, the family and the State. That this “conservative” inheritance was actually a radically liberal and inevitably disastrous departure from the millennial Western theologico-political tradition is now considered a proposition bordering on madness even by the most “conservative” opponents of contemporary liberalism. And yet a radical departure it was—a departure that emerged a full-blown system of thought during the epoch of the “Enlightenment” (roughly 1650–1800), whose first practical triumph, as we shall see, was the American Revolution, “the program of enlightenment in practice” and “the Enlightenment fulfilled.” In order to appreciate “the radicalism of the American Revolution,” to borrow the title of Gordon Woods’s landmark Pulitzer Prize-winning study on the subject, it is necessary first to appreciate what has been dismantled and forgotten in the Age of Liberty whose official inauguration took place in America in 1776. Here the briefest of sketches must suffice.
Read the exciting conclusion!