Now most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities. And Mr. Shaw and such people are especially shrinking from that awful and ancestral responsibility to which our fathers committed us when they took the wild step of becoming men. I mean the responsibility of affirming the truth of our human tradition and handing it on with a voice of authority, an unshaken voice.
That is the one eternal education; to be sure enough that something is true that you dare to tell it to a child. From this high audacious duty the moderns are fleeing on every side; and the only excuse for them is, (of course,) that their modern philosophies are so half-baked and hypothetical that they cannot convince themselves enough to convince even a newborn babe. This, of course, is connected with the decay of democracy; and is somewhat of a separate subject.
G K Chesterton – What’s Wrong With the World (1910)
As he does so well, Chesterton uses a rose-tinted view of the past to probe a genuine canker in human affairs. One obvious response is that we have a problem where modern philosophies are so half-baked, because of our increased awareness of myths and uncertainties.
On the other hand, Chesterton makes a telling point in that our awful and ancestral responsibility has also seeped away into the swamps of relativism and moral uncertainty. Possibly connected with this:
Were it possible to induce the masses to adopt atheism, this belief would exhibit all the intolerant ardour of a religious sentiment, and in its exterior forms would soon become a cult.Gustave Le Bon - The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (1895)
Is atheism a cult? Not in itself perhaps but something secular and cult-like has arisen since Le Bon's time.