In his new book, R.R. Reno seeks to reacquaint us with the moral and political significance of what the sociologist Emile Durkheim called the “strong gods,” which Reno describes as “love of the divine, love of truth, love of country, love of family.” He wants to wean Westerners from the 20th century’s “postwar consensus” that still unites us “culturally, even spiritually” around “anti-totalitarian, anti-fascist, and anti-nationalist” narratives. These narratives have committed us to worshipping “weak gods”—openness, diversity, multiculturalism—to protect us from the strong gods of nation and religion that might turn back the clock to 1939 or 1914.
The postwar consensus once made sense, Reno says, but in our day its imperatives have become “flesh-eating dogmas” that deprive us of solidarity. Reno sensibly observes: “It is not 1939. Our societies are not … marching in lockstep. Central planners do not clog our economies. There is no longer an overbearing bourgeois culture bent on ‘exclusion.’” It is time for the weak gods, spawned by a 20th century that seems to be refusing to end, to be ushered off the stage. It is time for the “return of the strong gods.”