Modernity and the Secularization of Reason

Christ revolutionized the world by introducing the concept of the dignity of every person no matter where they stood in societal order. This led to the eventual creation of individual identity that culminated during the Enlightenment with Descartes' famous assertion "I think, therefore I am." In the process, reason unfortunately became detached from religious morality, which has led to the self-centeredness, solipsism, and narcissism we have today. Capitalism, with all of its successes, exacerbates these problems because there is little morality attached to its foundation in reason other than the force of law. This invited the state to intervene in order to act as arbiter, and in so doing gets to impose its own morality, one that will always suit its own purposes, which is the expansion and consolidation of its power. And this is how we got the authoritarianism and soft tyranny of today.

So walking it back again, the road to individuality began with Jesus Christ but the long and winding road to modern times reveals decadence and hedonism as the inevitable dark side as "reason" has thrown the baby out with the bathwater by promoting freedom without restraint and limitations while ignoring the voluntary acceptance of Christian values. 

These values promote community and charity rather than every man, woman, and child out for themselves that exists in today's hypercompetitive world. And the primary goal has become one of seeking the most pleasure one can get, whether it's socially acceptable or not. It really is, in the end, every person for himself. One can see it in Facebook posts where people show off their latest foreign trip, foray into the mountains, or a marathon biking endeavor. It's kind of narcissistic virtue-signaling of how cool I am and what fun stuff I'm doing. On the dark side of pleasure-seeking however, there is the low-grade kind of just smoking cigarettes or drinking wine but following the spectrum to the high-grade kind one finds heavy drinking and pot-smoking, heroin and opioid use, even to sex addiction and rape as the logical outcome of pleasure now being the highest value there is in today's society. One only needs to ask: where do you fall along the pleasure spectrum?

The Enlightenment secularized reason with no moral strings attached making it morally neutral. This goes a long way in explaining the rise of fascism and communism, all rooted in the reason midwifed out of philosophers such as Hegel, Kant, Rousseau, Locke, Hobbes, Bacon, Hume, and Marx, all of whom set the world on the road to one primarily of humanistic values versus those consisting of transcendental Christian ones that primarily existed during medieval times. 

It also makes American democratic republicanism a first cousin of those tyrannical ideologies since it, too, grew out of the same philosophical soil. Now we see our freedoms slipping away into the soft despotism of the administrative state. The American government is more than happy to see pot use, gay marriage, and abortion legalized as Americans slide into the mindless pursuit of pleasure and instant gratification. When the chaos inevitably arrives out of it, the heavy hand of government will be standing by to make sure it imposes order. 

There is the added benefit that while everyone is focusing on having as much fun as possible, legal or otherwise, the electorate is asleep at wheel of ignorance and apathy while the government continues to grow and extend its reach into everyone's lives. This is the invisible deterioration of freedom that is happening right under our noses.

From The Culture of Narcissism by Christopher Lasch: 

"In a society that has reduced reason to mere calculation, reason can impose no limits on the pursuit of pleasure - on the immediate gratification of every desire no matter how perverse, insane, criminal or merely immoral. For the standards that would condemn crime or cruelty derived from religion, compassion or the kind of reason that rejects purely instrumental applications; and none of these outmoded forms of thought or feeling had any logical place in a society based on commodity production."

In the end, the detachment between reason and morality has put them at odds with each other, and in today's world of hyperindividualism, hyperacquisitiveness, and hypercompetitiveness, morally neutral and secularized reason is winning.