In the long run, the most influential of all the “Big Three” thinkers of the French Enlightenment was Rousseau. Rousseau stands apart. As a brilliant thinker and writer in his own right, he shocked even the trendy, progressive “salon set” with his radicalism between 1754 and his death in 1778. He further scandalized the elite social set by deliberately affronting the ethical and moral standards of the day. He was an iconoclast par excellence.
We do not need more religious judgmentalism and sectarianism. This discussion is not even about Christianity being superior to Enlightenment principles for building a just and compassionate society. I suspect we need both. It seems that when the two shun and despise each other, we end up in a terrible place. What we are both aiming for, so we say, is rediscovering the real sources of our ideals of freedom, and finding a sure foundation upon which to renew them.
“Your faith tells you that you need not fear any god or God to whom you will give an account for the things you have done, said, and thought during your very short time on this earth. But you really do not know whether you are right or wrong. You are taking a great gamble, like staking everything, absolutely everything, on a single flip of a coin.”
The legend and mystique of Rome is still much with us, both “late and soon”. As the West sleepwalks its way into abandoning and losing its heritage, the ghosts of the Caesars and the Eagles haunt us still.
When it comes to the crunch, love can even overcome the instinct for survival. You do not need to choose to feel the instinct for survival. It is like the need for food and water and the desire for sex. But love is chosen—at least at the level of application.