An interesting but predictable thing happened on our way to a utopia unchained from absolute truth – we created a generation of tyrannical absolutists.
In what feels like a lifetime ago, I did my graduate work on Postmodernism, specifically the leading American postmodernist, Richard Rorty. He and many others were working hard to find a livable philosophy in a post-truth era. There was no such thing as absolute truth (metanarratives) they argued, so they sought to replace truth with some version of social and political Progressivism in the sure and certain hope that it would create universal tolerance. The argument was that belief in truth made people intolerant and mean. So a belief system without truth would make them loving and tolerant.
I (and so many others) said then that the only thing those thinkers were doing was replacing the possibility of argumentation with power and coercion. If you take absolute truth away from humans, you put them at the mercy of the most powerful and aggressive humans. In their search for tolerance, these secular progressives produced a society ruled by power and propaganda manipulated by the wealthy and powerful.
Imagine being stuck in a boat with a group of people who have to make it to land. You have a map. The map shows you where you and are where you need to go. If you all decide to use the map, the map is the authority and you all can make it to shore. But imagine that some influential anti-mapist convinces your shipmates that the map is a coercive authority and they throw it overboard. Who now steers the ship? The powerful.
And so stories like this one in Portland are becoming common. How many businesses, state legislatures, public schools, and universities are now steered by the politically boisterous? They are coming to conclusions that are clearly contrary to the truth of the human psyche and morality, but the powerful are now in charge.
Expect this to continue and roll through more and more of our public institutions.
And also mark this – there may come a time in our lifetimes when the only public institution left to protect truth, reason, morality, civility, and the public good is the church of Jesus Christ.