In George Orwell’s portentous novel,1984, truth was turned on its head. Banners in the state of Oceania read “War Is Peace,” “Freedom Is Slavery,” and “Ignorance Is Strength.”
The Enlightenment was the embodiment of the modern era in Western culture. Postmodernism, on the other hand, rejects modernity and the philosophies of the Enlightenment thinkers with its assertion that no culture’s truths are superior to another because cultural values are entirely subjective.
The founding fathers of our democracy were steeped in and highly respected of the cultural and political philosophies that came out of the Enlightenment. But we now have a Republican Party that is Postmodern and anti-intellectual. When your primary value is greed, truth, integrity, and statesmanship are no longer important. When wealth is your highest goal you have no rational argument but must rely on religion and propaganda laden with the emotions of fear and scapegoating. Luckily, when you have great wealth you can buy all the propagandizing hacks you need. There is more wealth in the world today than ever before but it is as unequally distributed as in medieval times. “Greed is good”, to quote Gordon Gekko from the 1987 film, Wall Street.
Likewise, many educated people who can no longer believe traditional religious dogma but find it too hard to reject and live without religion, and led by religious “professionals”, have embraced Postmodern religion. This has resulted in religious language being turned on its head and becoming everyone’s playground. Anyone can use religious words and language to mean whatever they wish. God is no longer God but something like “the ground of all being”. Sin is no longer sin against the will of God but whatever you do that separates you from the community or however you wish to define it. Religion is no longer about the worship and serving of God, but “that which brings us together” or whatever. Religious faith is no longer about faith in any recognized God but about vague feel-good spirituality or something along those lines.
The major principle to come out of the Enlightenment was the necessity for separation of church and state. But how can you have separation of church and state if even science is religion? How can you then keep religious faith from being taught in the public schools when religion has so broad a definition?
The promise and values of what is know as Western Civilization are grand: democracy with liberty, equality, and fraternity for the citizenry. That was supposed to be the goal of our leaders. That was how it was supposed to have happened, but the wealthy and religious would seem to have us living in an Orwellian world.