A Western Dark Age?

I was very concerned reading an article on The Upheaval by N. S. Lyons called “There Is No Liberal West.” Lyons holds that no Western country is any longer committed to principles of liberalism. He summarizes these principles as follows:

  • that individuals possess universal and inalienable natural rights;
  • that “liberty of conscience is every man’s natural right” (as John Locke put it), and that freedom of religion is fundamental to a just and peaceable society;
  • that freedom of expression is paramount, as free debate is inseparable from the process of government by reason, and to all human individual and social progress;
  • that self-rule is the pinnacle of just and enlightened government, and that freedom of association and assembly is integral to political liberty;
  • that the rights of the individual supersede the will of the collective, and all citizens are equal before the law;
  • that there exists a necessary separation of the public and private spheres of life.

In Western nations, these principles have been eroded in varying degrees. While the United States is better in this regard than most European nations, censorship continues to make inroads. Individual expression is increasingly under attack.

If Lyons is right–and I think he is–then we in the West are headed for a philosophical dark age. Unlike progressives, I do not believe that human “progress” is an inexorable force. The free expression of ideas is necessary in order for us to make intellectual progress. Iron sharpens iron. The great Roman Catholic thinker John Henry Newman believed that we don’t really understand ideas until they have been subjected to public scrutiny and debate for some time. Only after we have argued about them, pushed and pulled on them, turned them inside out, and considered their implications can we really understand ideas. This can’t happen in an environment where we stifle speech and prosecute thought crimes. We need an active, open, and lively public sphere (to use the terminology of Charles Taylor) aimed at the public good.

If this doesn’t convince you of the danger of public censorship, then let me appeal to what might be called “enlightened self interest”: if they can silence someone else, they can silence you, too. We don’t want speech and expression to depend simply upon who is in power, or upon the ideological leanings of cultural elites. That way lies madness.

The liberal West is bleeding to death from self-inflicted wounds, and it will require concerted effort to save the patient in the days ahead.

4 thoughts on “A Western Dark Age?

  1. From the time of George Whitefield and other evangelicals of “the colonies”, The Individual began to rightly take a corrective place in the understanding of one’s relationship with God. The church cannot save you. Many saw this as a mindset that was a precursor to the American Revolution. A similar religious/political synchronization happened with the Reformation. I find in the divide today, proponents of opposing truths both emphasize self, self, and more self. Read the liberal truths again as well as the self -glorifying forces that oppose them. When I have experienced the real encompassing, timeless truth of God, I have neither experienced self-righteousnes, nor a feeling of “my rights”. I have felt humbled and ashamed, crushed before the Holiness of God before Whose mercy I throw myself.

  2. Frightening! Reminds me of Thomas Sowell’s commentary on the state of affairs in the US. See his book “Dismantling America” published in 2010. You can find an interview of Sowell about his book online.
    But worse, Lyons gives a travel log describing this phenomenon worldwide.

  3. You can add to his list of hate crimes etc. the fact that laws are no longer equally applied. In fact, if you look at the Bill of Rights, the only one NOT being consistently violated is the third amendment. This whole thing looks way to familiar, Russia in the 1900 teens and Germany in the 1930’s come quickly to mind. We need to not forget the cultural revolutions in China and Cambodia and the purges that happened in Vietnam.

    It will, indeed be a dark age. When the deterrent that America represents is gone, as our society collapses, Taiwan, and all of Southeast Asia, probably Korea as well. Nearly all of Western Europe will fall to the internal Islamists. France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK will no longer exist. Scandinavia will also disappear .Poland and Hungary along with the rest of Eastern Europe will become satellites of Russia if not absorbed by it. Africa is rapidly becoming an Islamic continent, with Islam moving deeper and deeper into the south. Some parts will be controlled, if not occupied by China, who may, briefly, be seen as a savior.


  4. It is probably essential to notice, that laws in the USA have never been equally applied. Privileges have always been granted to those with much money, and denied to those of most skin colors. The difference today is the denials and the attempts at justification, aren’t flying very high. I’ll suggest that the self-glorification of the U.S.A., the untruth thereof, will be made much more obvious than it already is. And I’ll further suggest that quasichristian nationalism, a scourge of this world since Constantine, will be disempowered even more and more over time, to the dismay of many. There are no Christian nations of this world and never have been, and the Lord shall reveal His Truth increasingly in this world. Nowhere in the Word of God, do we have it that He intends us of Christ to rule nations in order to enforce our comfort and physical safety.

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