Matt Milliner builds on his earlier thesis about a contemporary movement in academia (universities, he claims, are now entering a “postsecular” phase in which religious arguments and perspectives are once again appreciated and modern rationalism looks more and more like an inexplicable “cruel fetishism”) and serves some further thoughts:
Some friends have expressed unease when I speak of this religious turn, and their point is well taken. Academia is of course not monolithic, and anti-religious prejudice is still thick on the ground in many places. It is easy to overerplay the new (and possibly quite tentative) state of affairs. There is also a case to be made this all comes much too late. In 1970, before any of this was on the immediate horizon, George Steiner surveyed the prospects of secular reason, whose momentum he considered unstoppable. Strangely enough, the apocalypticism on offer in Bluebeard’s Castle was rooted less in Spenglerian conservatism than in the Frankfurt School [ ...]
This religious turn, this return to practice, this shift described by Mark Schwehn from Wissenschaft (knowledge) to Bildung (formation), and from Henry Adam’s self-creation back to Augustine’s created self, may consequently be like trying to turn an oceanliner with a paddle while the rusted rudder is fixed. But the religious virtue of hope, of which there are whiffs in Steiner, mitigates his conclusions, as does the fact that Steiner issued those dim predictions over forty years ago, and we’re still here.
Milliner also calls for religious students and teachers to be more respectful of secular perspectives than they may be inclined to after decades of secular triumphalism: “the first imperative to insist upon in the new context is that religiously inclined individuals need show more hospitality to the secular mentality than the secular mentality once showed to them.”
Wishful thinking, or perceptive trend-spotting?