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In fact one of the many ironies of the Enlightenment is that structural mythologies are terror-based, and rooted in the immiment fear of pain, death and annihilation.

Surely you mean that these terror based mythologies are what the Enlightenment inherited.  They went to great lengths to discredit the Christian narrative and largely succeeded among the educated elites.  And for the Day of Judgement they substituted "The Judgment of Posterity."  The whole Enlightenment Project consisted of replacing concepts of divine guidance with concepts of human direction and values.

More than anything they overestimated the power of reason.  The Jacobins thought they could replace Christianity with a Cult of Reason, but that only lasted so long as the Terror endured. The Enlightenment was never more than a veneer over a much more tumultuous, emotional and religious society.  So long as educated elites ran things, Enlightenment values endured.  But with the broadening of the voter franchise and the incorporation of the merely literate, as opposed to the broadly educated, into the political process the Christian world view increasingly intruded upon and then challenged Enlightenment values.

Reason cannot compete with the power of the mythic frame of Christianity in the minds of those who have never really been able to see the power of reason, which is so often found in subtlety.  In a very real sense the founders of the Enlightenment, especially in France, never had the opportunity, especially in the ancien regime, to see just how weak the appeal of reason was.  Adam Smith was closer to the mark in seeing that the requirements of commerce could produce a more refined population, but even there, that refinement did not extend to causing the masses to prefer reason to religion.

Our modern world was built by elites with Enlightenment values and the process was conceived as The Enlightenment Process.  But, in the USA, in order for some of those elites to retain power and to continue their own self-aggrandizement, they formed an alliance with a numerically superior group who fundamentally rejected the entire Enlightenment Project and values.  Having sown the wind we all are now reaping the whirlwind.

Fortunately, the fundamentalist true believers are not, by themselves, a true governing majority, and, in the USA, those to whom they supplied critical support, when elected to government, have discredited themselves in the eyes of a majority--for now.  But they may form a blocking minority.  Time will tell and the game is still afoot.  One thing is clear.  Those who still hold Enlightenment values, such as the universal rights of man and the rights of minorities, need to learn how to frame and narrate their agenda in terms more appealing than those used by their opponents.  The current US Administration has not distinguished themselves in this regard.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Aug 27th, 2009 at 11:03:00 PM EST
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