Bloom in the Fields of the Lord

Bloom in the Fields of the Lord

Most accounts of modernity treat the advent of secularism as a central force in our world. From Weber’s study of the decline of sacralized societies to postmodern theories of the flattening of all value and affect, the modern is regarded as insistently this-worldly, to be measured only by standards of its own devising. Yet the religious sensibility, with its longing for some transcendent source of value, persists and, in some of its fundamentalist manifestations, even seems to be on the rise. How to account for this? Does it invalidate all theories of modernization? Will some larger cycle in human history be revealed only as we again embrace other-worldly, sacred modes of thought, and social organization is realigned with nonrational schemes? Harold Bloom vaguely but darkly hints at the end of his new book that the next century may even see a return to religious wars. Will we wake up eight years from now in a rerun of the thirteenth century? The persistence of mass religious movements is the surest sign that the Enlightenment view of progress has lost its power to serve as the standard of our schemes for social betterment.

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