Modernity and Spirituality, Ctd.

A reader writes:

In the post "Modernity and Spirituality", you and the reader both equate the term "modernity" with "freedom". But "freedom" is not the part of "modernity" that people who believe in traditional religion are worried about. (By "traditional," I mean a religion that holds to traditional understandings of miracles, the existence of a spiritual realm, Tcscover_40 God/church authority, etc.)  Modernity does not simply represent liberty, it represents the philosophical movement of Modernism coming out of the Enlightenment whereby science and reason are enthroned with authority, and religion (as if it were always opposed) is to be hidden away in the corner of a private home. Modernity is more like a worldview than a period in time. 

Karen Armstrong in The Battle for God, argues that Modernity and Fundamentalism are two sides of the same coin - Modernity uses a narrow view of science and reason to push God into a corner, and Fundamentalism uses a narrow view of God and theology to push back, with equal and opposite force. I think Armstrong is wrong about a lot of things, but this argument (which you have made as well) I find very compelling. And I think you'd agree with me that much of this battle between Modernity and its sidekick Fundamentalism is on the wrong track, and it hurts both science and religion in the process (and creates a lot of confusion for the thoughtful religious who strive to hold the two together, against the polarization of an error-filled but widespread worldview).

Many who study such movements would say that only some of the world today is in the realm of Modernism - some societies are premodern (no need to name names) while others are increasingly postmodern. There is considerable overlap.  Postmodernism as a philosophy is, like Armstrong, wrong about a lot of things, but one area where it has gained traction is this: Science and reason do not have all the answers. Narratives, myths, and many other ways of knowing and experiencing the world cannot be discounted. Therefore, your reader's list of spiritual storefronts in LA are more a sign of Postmodernism making inroads than Modernism allowing religion to flourish.

The latter point is only true, though, if the only religions flourishing in post-modernity are "spiritual" and not "traditionally religious." Contemporary America has all of the above: traditional faith, fundamentalist faith, spiritual faith - and many over-lapping variations on the three.

A reader of my book argued that is is essentially a manifesto for post-modern conservatism. I prefer to think of it as a case for modern, secular conservatism, with profound respect for traditional and non-traditional inquiries into the divine. But - shameless plug - read it for yourself and see what you think.