October 2, 2019

RICHARD FERNANDEZ IN THE WSJ: Secular humanism was full of promise. Now it’s having an existential crisis.

The 20th-century left tended to define progress in terms of material goods, and that was true of liberals and Communists alike. Lyndon B. Johnson waged “war on poverty,” and in 1920 Lenin confidently declared that “communism is Soviet government plus the electrification of the whole country.”

That optimism is gone. Americans live in a world of mass air travel, endless entertainment options, food delivery, constant connectivity and air-conditioning, and the left insists we have to renounce it all. “Every one of the world’s major polluting countries,” writes novelist Jonathan Franzen in the New Yorker, must “institute draconian conservation measures, shut down much of its energy and transportation infrastructure, and completely retool its economy. . . . Human beings, including millions of government-hating Americans, need to accept high taxes and severe curtailment of their familiar life styles without revolting. They must accept the reality of climate change and have faith in the extreme measures taken to combat it. . . . Every day, instead of thinking about breakfast, they have to think about death.”

Children shouldn’t even think about schoolwork, according to 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, organizer of the Global Climate Strike: “Why should we study for a future that is being taken away from us?” This atmosphere promotes an antipathy to religious optimism. “Thinking of sending your ‘thoughts and prayers’?” asks a CNN report. Don’t bother: “Some atheists and agnostics would pay money to avoid them, according to a study.” A co-author of the study told the network that the “result is surprising because one might expect that atheists/agnostics would be indifferent to people praying for them—why care, if you don’t believe in the gesture?”

Personally, I don’t believe in the left. And I actually think that electricity does light up the soul. At least, I was moved when Senator Jellison said “give my children the lightning!”

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