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December 16, 2006

A Year of Progress

Something odd and encouraging appears to have occurred in the year I have been doing this blog: The revival of religious orthodoxy, which seemed so powerful a year ago, now, in the United States at least, seems to have eased. Freethinkers seem resurgence.

The evidence for this began, perhaps, with the decision, on December 20 of last year, by Judge John E. Jones, a Republican, that requiring teachers in Dover, Pa., to read a statement presenting "intelligent design" as an alternative to evolution was unconstitutional and characterized by "breathtaking inanity." School boards calling for this sort of thing have been voted out of office. Protestations of disbelief have been turning up in the press, on television, even on the best-seller lists. The Republicans, and their faith-based president, suffered, last month, a significant electoral defeat.

Such evidence is, of course, spotty and unscientific. And statements like this by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (while taking a swipe at atheists) -- the "Christian Right has largely retreated from the culture wars" -- seem hugely overstated. A court decision, six-figure book sales and a vote against an administration. most of whose policies have failed, are poor measures of the religiosity of hundreds of millions of people.

But is it possible that a trend has at least been reversed and that the Enlightenment, after a couple of decades of reaction, is once again moving forward? Do you think?

Posted by Mitchell Stephens at December 16, 2006 2:54 PM


"Ask again later"?

Posted by: Aesmael at December 16, 2006 8:24 PM

Think you're a tireless optimist, which I suppose is a good thing. Would like to cautiously agree that we're seeing the exhausted end of christian fundamentalism in this country's locuses of power at the local and national levels (though i'm not convinced this is true).

Do not wish merely to see a 'reversal of this trend'--which to me signifies traversing the same path again, having learned nothing in these decades of reactionary decision-making. No surprise if I suggest that 'moving forward' according to Enlightenment principles is also not exactly appealing as a future, since it is largely those principles and the reactions they have provoked over the past couple centuries (including the late 20th century fundamentalist resurgences you have noted) that have brought us to this particularly moment in human history.

Pro-jec[k]tion from the hermeneutic circle please, rather than vicious circularity.

Posted by: JM at December 17, 2006 12:17 PM

On The Media just did a related trends piece:

Posted by: MT at December 18, 2006 1:14 AM

Progress towards what exactly, a "reasonable" view of reality?

This is what I see happening: As more and more people spend their lives building and caring for machines (leaving little time to worry about superstition other for entertainment) we (humans and our machines together) evolve into a network of consciousness and all these questions become mute.

All those "People of the Year" have one thing in common--their machines connect them.

The problem about achieving the best, most honest, most reality based version of it all, is that we end up believing our own bullshit--like somehow I am going to be the one who can use words to enlighten the world and change the nature of humanity. How many times has that noble venture gone terribly wrong?

One day the loneliness of the human condition will be over--because of the machines we build.

Posted by: Jay Saul at December 18, 2006 10:01 AM

The lesson I've taken from the election and from the recent apparent backlash against religious fundamentalism is that our society is tired of one thing, but only has one alternative. I don't see it as a vote for liberalism or enlightenment yet. I think the forces of light are being given an opportunity to run things for a while. If we blow it, we didn't earn it.

Posted by: pablo at December 18, 2006 5:46 PM

Forces of Light? Life is not a Star Wars movie.
"Fool me twice, shame on, on, on,--WONT GET FOOLED AGAIN!"

Yeah, right, forces of light.

Posted by: Jay Saul at December 20, 2006 4:00 PM

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