The Enlightenment project (1685-1815)-that is, the attempt to establish a secular and rational basis for morality-is a failure. As someone who grew up steeped in secularism and Enlightenment philosophy yet was saved by Christ as an adult, I will briefly communicate my change of heart.
Western culture has gone through 3 stages:
1) There is an objective standard of morality that can be rationally justified.
2) The Enlightenment: moral claims are still made; appeal to objective standards and rational justification start to deteriorate.
3) Emotivism: all moral judgments are expressions of personal preference.
America and Europe are in Stage 3 emotivism, reflected in statements like “that works for you” or “I would never murder someone, but who am I to deny someone else that right?” We will either repent and return to Jesus and the Christian roots we had in Stage 1 or become just as bad as Nazi Germany. Secular humanism will no longer be humanism, but Nietzschean anti-humanism: the statement “we are descended from apes, so let us love one another,” will turn into the statement “we are descended from apes, so let us dominate and oppress one another.”
Nazi Germany was described by Hannah Arendt exactly this way, “…the few rules and standards according to which men used to tell right from wrong, and which were invoked to judge or justify others and themselves, and whose validity were supposed to be self-evident to every sane person either as a part of divine or of natural law.… without much notice… collapsed almost overnight, and then it was as though morality suddenly stood revealed in the original meaning of the word, as a set of mores, customs and manners, which could be exchanged for another set with hardly more trouble than it would take to change the table manners of an individual or a people.”
The Holocaust shows us how this type of thinking fleshes itself out, embodying death, destruction, and chaos.
In the presence of moral chaos and darkness, the local Church and local community are absolutely essential. Alasdair MacIntyre argues we must construct “local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us.”