The established boundaries of moral reason in the past were marked by fact plus devotion. This helped guide to a form of reliability in freedom. This pursuit now appears to be buried beneath soft grass of what feels right, now, and whose words sound the best. Right does not mean good or moral anymore, but is somewhat defined by emotional drive that evades the tough questions.
To question this place at the precipice goes against the tide of popular thinking; its pull works like a magnet. How to recognize the pull of the precipice? Look for signs of less value placed on the lives of some than the value placed on the lives of others; this is as true today as at a prior precipice, the one that hid behind rhetoric that fooled nations before World War II.
Demagoguery accompanied the 1930s rhetoric that enslaved nations. Demagoguery wears a face of humanitarian concern; it springs up from different soil to disregard prevailing moral and ethical views, which it twists; it hates dissenting voices and thrives on fear. Its category has an example in the words of atheist of the day, Richard Dawkins, and his claims of devotion to reason and science and disdain for those who refuse to be manipulated by claims of superior thinking.
Religious freedoms and protection of free speech in an arena of competing ideas and motivations were basic settled rights of the promise of civilized community in recent history. To speak freely means, in theory, absence of pressure to accept or to deny current trends. The danger near the precipice is the rising of an effective demagogue voice within any formerly free place. Demagoguery has an air of confident ridicule. God, in such a setting, is either denied or quoted, as suits the purpose.
Who garners the trust sought by demagogues? To recognize the threats requires informed diligence, of which each of us is capable. Those whose reasoning and belief run counter to the prevailing tides of opinion need to protect their minds, including their ways and means when solving problems. Hope to find a saving ledge below the precipice is not enough.
Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again.--Will and Ariel Durant10