Theists daydream about crushing modernity, in favor of "Radical Orthodoxy".
One of Isaiah Berlin's finest works (see the side-links) was his essay about the intellectual outlook of Joseph de Maistre, the staunchly conservative Catholic Savoyard who lived through the French Revolution and wrote whitheringly against it, against modernity, against rationality, and against all points un-Catholic.
His great insight was about the dark side of human nature- how people want to be in chains, want to sin and be forgiven, want to sacrifice their lives on the altar of authority, and thus need and want to be led by their betters, or indeed by anyone with plausible authority. He saw clearly the acidic nature of rationality and atheism, which would wash away the veneration of throne and altar as divine manifestations, imperturbable and unanswerable, which best undergirds such patriarchal, hierarchical systems. He despised the French revolution, yet was fascinated by power, legitimate and illigitimate. One can see clear affinities with Machiavelli, even as de Maistre hewed devotedly to the Roman Catholic church (see fideism). He knew that to see through the contingency of such institutions and theistic rationalizations was to destroy everything- to destabilize the delicate threads of society, with no assurance that anything at all, or at any rate anything worthwhile, was ready to replace them.
Echos of de Maistre's philosophy, which was highly influential in its time, especially in reactionary Russia and restoration France, continue down to our day, through Fascism, opposition to Vatican II, Opus Dei, and most recently, in a curious phenomenon that calls itself "Radical Orthodoxy" (RO). Not coherent enough or palatable enough to be a philosphy, RO calls itself a "sensibility", and seeks the usual conservative dream of universal subservience to clergy and church- of stability promised by verities imbibed unthinkingly and enforced ruthlessly. A medieval world where being outside the church is literally unthinkable, and atheism but a rumor from far away and long ago.
de Maistre's views were a powerful antidote to the enlightenment faith in human rationality, which did indeed have an excessively sangine view of our (or at least revolutionary Frenchmen's) ability to reshape society to the ideals of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, instead authoring a rather sanguinary episode that was saved (depending on one's view of him) only by the Machiavellian hand of Napoleon and his even more sanguinary excesses abroad (admittedly, in response to the relentless aggression of the horrified theo/auto-cratic enemies of the French revolution).
Optimism or pessimism about the human condition- that is the question. In the end, even de Maistre knew he was waging at best a holding operation, since the progress of the sciences and rational thought was so demonstrable and invigorating to so many, despite the missteps along the way. It was left to the next century for the full excesses of each extreme to be made explicit in the death-grapple between Germany, with its romantic religion of Volk und Blut, and the Stalinist dictatorship of the proletariat. Each partook in some measure of both extremes, claiming rationalist sanction by way of various pseudosciences (race studies and eugenics on the one hand, and historical determinism on the other, among many others), while also feeding deeply on romantic irrationalist attitudes, including leader-cults and nationalism, to create updated terror-states.
Thankfully, other political systems have cast a less harsh light on the possibilities of reason in the guidance of human affairs, but the modern age remains deeply discomfiting to those who are not at home in the ultimately self-determined and meaningless nihilism of fully realized modernism. This nexus of self-made meaning, rampant liberty, and penetrating skepticism offend those who seek timeless truth and structure in their inner and outer lives, however illusory.
Thus Radical Orthodoxy, a minor theological revolt from the Anglican church that sidles up to Rome, (indeed holding a recent conference right by the Vatican, with the howlingly misleading title "The Grandeur of Reason"), and offers patently irrationalist mystical maunderings to communicate its "sensibility". A sensibility which offers a critique without criticism- a cry of protest against modernism without rational content, as far as I can tell (or Mr. J. Irwin either, who was there). Which seems, at base, to wish its way back into the early middle ages, when life was good for the clergy, everyone knew their place, and none of the doubts introduced by the Renaissance had yet reared their head, let alone the utterly corrosive skepticism of modernity. Indeed, they have something of a bone to pick with the eleventh century pre-scholastic Duns Scotus, [ed. note- a correspondent points out below that Scotus was 13th-14th century, and taught at the height of scholasticism] and his excessive use of reason! No community will be conceivable outside the church, and while the church will be perfectly humble and humanistic, somehow nothing could be done or authorized without its sanction.
What is the Grandeur of reason, in their eyes? Well to quote Irwin, "What brings this reductionism to pass, it is claimed by both [pope] Benedict and Radical Orthodoxy, is the ‘self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically falsifiable’." The grandeur of reason turns out to be its extension and broadening into faith- thus giving blind faith the name "reason" just because, well, reason has a nice ring to it in this modern age, doesn't it? Apparently the outright proclamation of faith, pure and simple, is unappetizing for theologians who call themselves "thinkers", so their answer is to slap the sticker of reason on whatever they happen to hold as faith, and hope no one notices.
The self-applied moniker of "Radical" is not RO's only claim to chic, for they are self-avowedly postmodernist as well. Whatever claims to deconstruct modernism and reach beyond the horrors of penetrating rational thought is their friend, and postmodernism is certainly that, since in most understandings it attacks the very capability of humans to understand anything, as per Lyotard, Derrida, and Foucault, to the point that their own writings demonstrate what they set out to prove. It is a fellow obscurantism with which the RO theists feel very much at home. All the same, they appear blind to how postmodernism is even more thoroughly critical of the "logocentrism" and other universal narratives that RO wishes to shelter from thought than it is of the residual certainties of modernism.
For that is the point of RO, isn't it? To proclaim, propagate, and enforce an orthodoxy (kerygmatically, as they would say) without skepticism, quarter or second thought. That is why they yearningly look up to the Catholic church, which stands as such a monolith of unappealable, unapologetic, infallible orthodoxy in a sea of doubt and skepticism, even as it quietly steers its ship with the times, claiming to be best friends with the Muslims and Jews after all, casting off limbo with a press release, settling pederasty case after case as quietly as it can, and otherwise reluctantly trimming its course to the critiques of enlightened reason and morality. And the ruby slippers, dresses, and hats- out of this world!
de Maistre would be deeply pleased by the continued appeal of ultra-conservative thought. His battle goes on an on, one golden age replaced by another in the rear-view mirror, and those who have authority based on nothing other than superstition and tradition deathly afraid that the winds of reason will lift up their skirts and blow them away.