Political Theology Today as Critical Theory of the Contemporary: Reason, Religion, Humanism
Across the globe the liberal logic of capitalism and technocracy has seemingly triumphed, and with it a culture of secularism, now the dominant ideology of the liberal establishment that prefers progress to tradition, an individualized identity to a sense of shared belonging, and free choice to common purpose. As much as this regime has produced wealth, it has also generated inequality and dissatisfaction. The populist insurgency that is sweeping the West is in large part a repudiation of this secular politics, opening the space for a post-liberal political theology. A resurgence of religion is underway that marks the failure of the secularization thesis and the need for alternative cultural resources, beyond positivism, to understand the place of humanity within the cosmos. Is this our new "Great Awakening"?
Amid the crisis of rationalism, critical theorists such as Jürgen Habermas have sought to rescue the project of a reasonable humanism from the twin threats of religious fundamentalism and secular naturalism. Yet Habermas's conception of postsecularity remains residually secularist because he does not permit faith to make any substantive or critical contribution to public discussion that could undermine the primacy of formal, procedural reason. In response Pope Emeritus Benedict invoked Adorno and Horkheimer's dialectic of enlightenment because the slogan "reason alone" leads to the dissolution of reason—to the conclusion that only will and power have any reality. The only way to avoid this outcome is to recall—so Benedict's argument in his much-commented but poorly understood 2006 Regensburg address—that the West's commitment to humanist reason is grounded in the classical and Christian idea that human rationality participates in the infinite reason of transcendence. Otherwise the rational is but the illusion of our own and of nature's will to power.