I noted Hart’s positive ambition and thesis in his introduction, but there is also a “negative side” to his argument, which is his rejection of the “ideology of ‘the modern’” and his rejection, “especially of the myth of the ‘Enlightenment.’” And by modernity, he doesn’t mean modern medicine, flight, space travel, running water and the like. He means:
…rather…the modern age’s grand narrative of itself: its story of the triumph of critical reason over ‘irrational’ faith, or the progress of social morality toward greater justice and freedom, of the ‘tolerance’ of the secular state, and of the unquestioned ethical primacy of either individualism or collectivism (as the case may be). Indeed, I want in part to argue that what many of us are still in the habit of calling the ‘Age of Reason’ was in many significant ways the beginning of the eclipse of reason’s authority as a cultural value; that the modern age is notable in large measure for the triumph of inflexible and unthinking dogmatism is every sphere of human endeavor (including the sciences) and for a flight from rationality to any soothing number of fundamentalisms, religious and secular; that the Enlightenment ideology of modernity as such does not even deserve any particular credit for the advance of modern science; that the modern secular state’s capacity for barbarism exceeds any of the evils for which Christendom might justly be indicted, not solely by virtue of the superior technology at its disposal, but by its very nature; that among the chief accomplishments of modern culture have been a massive retreat to superstition and the gestation of especially pitiless forms of nihilism; and that, by comparison to the Christian revolution it succeeded, modernity is little more than an aftereffect, or even a counterrevolution—a reactionary flight back toward a comfortable, but dehumanizing, mental and moral servitude to elemental nature. In fact, this is where my story both begins and ends.
Which is to say that the new atheists and secularists can do little more than parrot a conventional wisdom that is wrapped up in an almost unbelievable historical ignorance. Not a pretty package.