Chapter four is entitled “The Night of Reason.” Here Hart gives another example of the mythology of modernity, specifically addressing a major theme that runs through the whole story and purports to show how modern “reason” replaced “irrational” faith. And, further, as the story goes, not only was this faith “hostile” to the appeal of rationality, it nose-dived Western culture into a “Dark Age” by burning books, tossing out science, and basically crashing the achievements of the classical world straight into the ground. But, as Hart comments in reference to this major thread of the modern story,
Here the ghastly light of a thousand inane legends burns with an almost inextinguishable incandescence.
Hart then references for example a common story throw up by those who have drank deeply from modern wells, which has to do with Christians supposedly attacking and pillaging the ancient library of Alexandria. Hart references the book God against the gods, by Jonathan Kirsch. Hart recounts Kirsch’s retelling of the event, this horrible destruction of classical learning, which he lays clearly at the feet of “Christian zealots.” Hart writes in response,
Kirsch is not a historian and so can perhaps be forgiven for relying on popular rather than original sources; and obviously he is repeating in good faith a tale he has heard so often that he cannot distinguish it from fact. But it is quite absurd for all that.
Hart also notes the ever referenced Edward Gibbon and his account of the destruction of the Alexandrian library. Hart points out that the only source Gibbon cites is a “cursory remark made by the Christian historian Paul Orosius (fl. A.D. 414-417).” He goes on to point out that the actual cite does little to bolster Gibbon’s claims, if at all.
After unpacking the writings from which, it appears, we get what history is available to us of the events surrounding the destruction of the Alexandrian library, Hart concludes,
Whatever the case, and though it may seem shameful that temples were despoiled of their riches, including their books, either by Christians or others of the time, the lurid, tragic, scandalous story that one sees repeated again and again—that Christian hordes took seven hundred thousand scrolls from the Great Library of Alexandria and, intoxicated by their fanatical and brutish detestation of profane learning and heathen science, burned them in open fires in the streets, setting back the advance of Western Civilization by centuries in the process—is pure fiction.
Hart then goes on to lay waste several other modern mythic accounts of historical events that lend support to this story called modernity—this tale of an awakening to “rationalism” from the dark night of ignorant “faith.” Simply put, those who believe such simplistic and self-serving tales are believers, not in historical “facts,” but in something more akin to urban legends.