A complex debate has arisen about the relationship between the Enlightenment and the Christian tradition. As the notion of the Christian tradition and of “Western civilisation” have become fused, and as the Enlightenment has come to be seen as embodying Western values, so some have tried to co-opt the Enlightenment into the Christian tradition. The Enlightenment ideas of tolerance, equality and universalism, they argue, derive from the reworking of notions already established within the Christian tradition. Others, more ambiguous about the legacy of the Enlightenment, argue that true liberal, democratic values are Christian and that the radicalism and secularism of the Enlightenment has only helped undermine such values. Both views are wrong. For a start, the historic origins of many of these ideas lie, as we have seen, outside the Christian tradition. It is as apt to describe concepts such as equality or universalism as Greek as it is to describe them as Christian. In truth, though, the modern ideas of equality or universality are neither Greek nor Christian. Whatever their historical origins, they have become peculiarly modern concepts, the product of the specific social, political and intellectual currents of the modern world.
more from Kenan Malik at Eurozine here.