With tongue firmly planted in cheek…
When one considers our culture’s devotion to acquisition, celebrity, distraction, and therapy, it is hard not to think that perhaps our vision as a people has narrowed to the smaller preoccupations and desires of individual selves, and that our whole political, social, and economic existence is oriented toward that reality.
On the other hand, perhaps that is simply what happens when human beings are liberated from want and worry, and we should therefore gratefully embrace the triviality of a world that revolves around television, shopping, and the internet as a kind of blessedness that our ancestors, oppressed by miseries we can scarcely now imagine, never even hoped to enjoy in this world.
-David Bently Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies, p.230
Several times while reading Hart’s book on Christian history I found myself saying, “He should totally cite Rene Girard here! That would totally beef up his argument”. Alas, the Frenchman is nowhere to be found. Hart has come to some of the same conclusions though.
“Christendom” was only the outward, sometimes majestic, but always defective form of the iteration between the gospel and the intractable stuff of human habit.
The more vital and essential victory of Christianity lay in the strange, impractical, altogether unworldly tenderness of the moral intuitions it succeeded in sowing in human consciences.
If we find ourselves occasionally shocked by how casually ancient men and women destroyed or ignored lives we would think ineffably precious, we would do well to reflect that theirs was – in purely pragmatic terms – a more “natural” disposition toward reality.
-David Bently Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies, p.213
The unworldly tenderness sowed in human consciences. The heart of Girard’s theory is explaining the mechanism for exactly how this happened. After Jesus, there is just no going back to the way things were. Ever. The deep lie that allowed us to ignore innocent victims has been permanently unmasked.
More good stuff on how modern unbelief is essentially post-Christian. That is, it is defined throughout by Christian ideas and morals.
Much of modernity should be understood not as a grand revolt against the tyranny of faith, not as a movement of human liberation and progress, but as a counterrevolution, a reactionary rejection of a freedom which it no longer understands, but upon which it remains parasitic.
Even when modern persons turn away from Christian conviction, there are any number of paths that have been irrevocably closed to them – either because they lead toward philosophical positions that Christianity has assumed successfully into its own story, or because they lead toward forms of “superstition” that Christianity has rendered utterly incredible to modern minds.
A post-Christian unbeliever is still, most definitely. for good or for ill, post-CHRISTIAN. We live in a world transformed by an ancient revolution – social, intellectual, metaphysical, moral, spiritual – the immensity of which we often only barely grasp…It is perhaps the only true revolution in the history of the West.
-David Bently Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies, p.108
Pay special attention to “philosophical positions that Christianity has assumed successfully into its own story”. That is the redemption of all culture right there!