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Os Guinness on the Secularization Thesis

The salience of religion in our times is a massive stumbling block to much educated opinion in Europe, the United States, and the Western world at large — to what was once called the republic of letters, and which Peter Berger calls "the international faculty club." For one of the cardinal assumptions of intellectual orthodoxy since the Enlightenment, expressed canonically in the secularization theory, is that modernization means secularization, which in turn means that, like Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire cat, religion will slowly disappear from sight as the world modernizes, leaving behind only a vacant grin. ¶ This presumption translates practically into three attitudes that are widely prevalent in educated circles in the West: that religion in the modern world is irrational, archaic, retrograde, and on the way out; that what remains of religion is the leading source of evil and conflict today; and that a central task of politics is to curb the illiberal power of religion, above all in the public square. In short, the idea that religion is a wild card in human affairs is admissible, but the idea that it could play a central and constructive role is absurd. ¶ For any thoughtful student of world affairs who understands the role of religion in American and Western history, or in international affairs today, this view is preposterous.

… We may leave it to events to disabuse the prejudice, and to future ages to explain it. One does not have to agree with Thomas Aquinas that unbelief is contrary to human nature, with Edmund Burke that man is by constitution a religious animal, or with Berger that religion is a perennial feature of humanity to see that, at the very least, the prejudice is the product of what Max Weber called the tone deafness of certain elites: they do not hear or appreciate the music by which most people have, do, and always will orchestrate their lives. Sam Harris’s vision of the "end of faith" is as much wishful thinking as Francis Fukuyama’s "end of history."