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Far from utopia, however, this thinking resulted in something more akin to hell on earth. For the worship of man through reason led straight to totalitarianism. It was reason that would redeem religious superstition and bring about the kingdom of Man on earth. And just like medieval apocalyptic Christian belief, this secular doctrine would also be unchallengeable and heretics would be punished. This kind of fanaticism infused the three great tyrannical movements that were spun out of Enlightenment thinking: the French Revolution, Communism and Fascism.

Professor Richard Landes, a scholar of apocalyptic movements, notes that for the French revolutionaries the millennial hope lay not in scripture but in Rousseau’s theories of freedom and the general will which would be expressed by the liberated voice of the people. The world would be perfected through egalitarianism. On November 10, 1793, the Committee of Public Safety abolished the worship of God and substituted for it the “Cult of Reason”. At the same time, this same committee of 12 men summarily executed thousands of people in the Terror which only ended with the execution of its two masterminds, Robespierre and Saint-Just, in 1794.

Kant and Hegel developed the notion that historical process drove towards collective salvation defined in secular terms; and Marx offered a further variant of such a process that inexorably drove towards collective salvation through Communism. “History,” Marx wrote, “is but a continuous transformation of human nature.”

Richard Landes observes that the “scientific” reading of history — the historical dialectic — resembled in some important ways the view of the Bible promoted by the 13th-century monk Joachim of Fiore, who viewed history as a process that promised collective salvation.

Both Communism and Fascism attempted to transform the world to create a perfected society. Both ideologies were deprived of their power with the defeat of Nazi Germany and the discrediting of Stalinism and subsequent fall of the Soviet Union. But the secular belief that man could perfect the world in his own image, and in ways that would brook no dissent, merely mutated in the latter half of the 20th century into what J.E. Talmon termed “cultural totalitarianism”.

In the Sixties, the baby-boomer generation bought heavily into the idea propounded by Herbert Marcuse and other Marxist radicals that the way to transform the West lay not through the seizure of political or economic control but through the transformation of the culture. This has been achieved over the past half century through what has been called a “long march through the institutions”, the infiltration into all the institutions of the culture — the universities, media, professions, politics, civil service, churches — of ideas that would then become the orthodoxy.
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Gavin Stoffberg
March 14th, 2018
3:03 PM
Thanks for a great article. Loved it!

Madge Hirsch
March 14th, 2018
10:03 AM
It is obvious that Melanie Phillips has never bothered to aquaint herself on any but the sketchiest level with Hinduism. One could argue that the order of the 10 incarnations of Vishnu were an example of evolution just as much as anything to be found in Genesis.I would suggest that the arrested development of science in Hindu India has a lot more to do with the devastation caused by neverending Islamic invasions and the reduction of the Hindu population to dhimmi status rather than cyclical notions of time. As for the tyranny of atheism there was plenty of tyranny around before the 20th century.And just look what that wonderfully vibrant Bible Belt has produced- a great deal of hypocrisy, lots of people who believe the earth is only 6,000 years old and Trump for POTUS. As for asserting that the stuff in the OT is more factual than the so called miracles of Christianity because "it happened to us"- pathetic.

Naomi King
March 12th, 2018
7:03 AM
The comments above simply prove that atheism is irrational and stupid.

Elisabeth Holland
March 12th, 2018
2:03 AM
The Hebrew Bible reveals that God is holy/pure/ righteous/just and as such is the true judge of sin. It is very hard for us to comprehend the holiness of God and just how bad sin is. Sin always perverts truth. There are so called Christians who deny the resurrection of Jesus but this is to fail to recognize the nature of God as holy, the creator and redeemer who indeed makes rational the resurrection. The Hebrew Bible points to redemption of our sin-sick sorry world through the unexpected means of the death of Jesus and its story is brought to fruition in the New Testament, but we need to read both books carefully as ask God to reveal himself to us as we do.

Claire Khaw
March 10th, 2018
10:03 PM
Judaism - Thesis Christianity - Antithesis Islam - Synthesis It is disappointing that Melanie Phillips does not mention at all the absurdity of the doctrine of the Trinity which requires all who wish to identify as Christian to say they believe that Christ is the co-equal of God. From this requirement flows cowardice, irrationality and hypocrisy leading to Westerners throwing out the morality of Christianity with the bathwater of the Trinity. explains the irrationality of Christianity rather well, I think. Tertullian’s views are those of a fanatic. But they have not been without influence. A certain strand within Christianity has always applauded this posture, and its echoes continue to be heard down to our own day. We find a similar position, in which Christian faith is taken to be “an absurdity to the understanding,” being advanced in the writings of Kierkegaard, for example: What, then, is the absurd? The absurd is that the eternal truth has come into existence in time, that God has come into existence, has been born, has grown up, etc., has come into existence… as an individual human being…. [in other words,] the absurd is precisely the object of faith, and only that can be believed…. Christianity… has required the inwardness of faith with regard to what is… an absurdity to the understanding. In the same vein, C.S. Lewis speaks of the things that Jesus asks mankind to believe, if judged by human standards, as “asinine fatuity” and “lunacy”: [Y]ou will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips…. asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give…. in the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history…. a man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said… would either be a lunatic—on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of Hell. Christian faith requires belief in things that are repugnant to human reason, which permits contemporary commentators to speak of biblical faith as though it purposely stands in opposition to the dictates of human reason.

David MacKenzie
March 10th, 2018
8:03 PM
A fascinating article, and well worth the read. As an evangelical Pastor, I appreciate the Jewish and Torah apologetic. It's interesting to hear arguments from your perspective.

March 10th, 2018
4:03 PM
The more corrupt the character, the more they hate the idea that they will face God for judgement.

David Anon
March 9th, 2018
10:03 PM
I wonder, Laurence, what future generations will make of our enlightened society's attempts to eliminate the likes of ISIS?

Rev., DAvid Morgan
March 9th, 2018
7:03 PM
Excellent and brilliant argument for the fundamental belief in the Holy Scriptures (OT and NT) the source of our 'weltanschauung' and shalom! Thank you Melanie.

March 6th, 2018
6:03 AM
Regarding the Richard Dawkins quote: how exactly is this a "wildly untrue, ignorant and perverse reading of the Hebrew Bible"? Every one of those adjectives can be justified by stories and quotes directly from the Bible. You can't get away with lying about your holy books these days Melanie- we know whats in them!

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