I sort of knew this already, but it had never really come into focus until this afternoon when a lot of things suddenly "clicked".
Here's the deal: among our friends on the political Left - which is where I have my roots - there are people, not just a few but many, who despise everything I hold dear. These are supposed to be my allies, but they despise liberalism, reason, science, progress, and the Enlightenment. They hate the so-called "New Atheism", not so much because they think the doctrines of Christianity or some other religion are actually true, but because they see people like Richard Dawkins as providing a rallying point for ... yes, liberalism, reason, science, progress, and the Enlightenment. They see religion as a good thing, NOT just because it can provide a sense of meaning and community, and not despite its frequent opposition to those values, but precisely because of it. It's not some sort of accident or coincidence that their commitments so often have them opposing liberalism and all the values associated with it. They know that that's what they're doing; they actually see those values as disvalues.
They're not ready to move on to a post-religious society. They may not be religious themselves, except in some cultural sense, but the post-religious societies of contemporary Europe are anathema to them. Their preference is some sort of post-liberalism in which the world is re-enchanted.
Okay, I knew such people existed; I'm not totally naive. But I'd thought it was just a few wingnuts like Bill McKibben, or a few literary scholars who are too impressed with second-tier French philosophy. I made excuses for the others. But no. The penny has finally dropped that this is a mainstream viewpoint among English-speaking intellectuals of the Left. Maybe it's not one that's popular among Left-leaning analytic philosophers or scientists, or among Left-leaning people in the science fiction community, or Left-leaning technoprogressives and transhumanists (who must reject it by definition). In fact, it's a view that I almost never encounter in real life, even though I and most of my friends are fairly Left-leaning and many of them belong to the literary world. So it seems alien. It's like I've suddenly realised that there are all these flying saucer worshippers around. Or South-Park-style Crab People. It's odd, but it's there, and it's even commonplace.
I wonder exactly how widespread this viewpoint is within, say, university departments of literature or cultural studies. Someone should do some research.
Stanley Fish and Terry Eagleton, for example, are not just isolated, idiosyncratic sentimentalists who believe in belief. They really do hate the things that I value, and they see themselves as in a struggle to resist the very things that I am fighting for in all my work. When Eagleton says that Richard Dawkins is standing in his way, he actually means it. What's more, such Eaglefish don't see themselves as expressing a view that their colleagues and acquaintances will find alien and bizarre. They expect their views to seem familiar and attractive to many readers; they expect to find an audience for which such views will have the ring of truth. What's more, they're probably right.
It's a frightening thought, but welcome to the desert of the real.