“The truth explains everything,” runs one of Grayling’s “Proverbs.” It’s an article of faith for these writers. But they must sense, even as they affirm it, that the real threat to the cult of human reason in the 21st Century is not the religious, but epistemological. We live today under the dispensation of what one contemporary wise man calls “truthiness.” In the great ecumenical marketplace of our culture, belief systems thrive not on compulsion, or verifiability, but on narrative interest.
I think he’s right. Religion is certainly a major repository of unreason, but it’s not the only one. More prevalent is the widespread cynicism that says no one can be trusted, that earnest truth-seeking is a quaint and outdated brand in the ecumenical marketplace, that you might as well just tell yourself whatever story flatters your vanity and seek out an echo chamber to reinforce it. It’s not even that we can’t agree on the answers of how to live, we can’t even agree on how to frame the questions, or whether to even bother asking them at all.