24 / CHRONICLESnNot a Prayer by Joseph Schwanzn”(Portentous sight!) the owlet Atheism,nSaihng on obscene wings athwartnthe noon …”n—Samuel Taylor ColeridgenWithout God, Without Creed: ThenOrigins of Unbelief in America bynJames Turner, Baltimore, MD: JohnsnHopkins University Press.nHabits of the Heart: Individualismnand Commitment in American Lifenby Robert N. Bellah e^ al., Berkeley:nUniversity of California Press.nIndividualism is the question of firstnconcern to the future of the West.nThe dread argument of the individualncase is, I think, the fundamental ideanof modernism. Books like those bynTurner and Bellah & Associates whichndeal with this question hae signifi­ncance, however, only within thenframework already constructed bynsome of the finest minds of the pastn150 years. It is necessary to review atnleast the broad outiines of that frameworknbefore the value of these worksncan be determined.nMan’s worship of himself becamenpossible because of two related butnconflicting reasons. One, the Foundernof the Christian religion gave infinitenvalue to the person, a being worthy innHis eyes of His death. This centralnliberating truth, fully and incontrovertiblynproclaimed in history, isnunique. Two, by the time of the Renaissancenthe inevitable workings ofnmankind’s weakness made themselvesnfelt in secular humanism, the ideologynin which the person is perceived as thencenter of reality and, hence, the compellingnimage of culture. This shift isnso profound that Lionel Trilling heldnthat a mutation in the human psychenhad taken place then, making it possiblenfor man to see himself as at thencenter.nBy this shift the Christian sense ofnperson was anamorphosized into individualism.nThe Christian West had hitnupon that object of all objects mostnworthy to replace God. The point was,nas Auguste Comte noted, that oncenGod was shut out. His place must bentaken by something else if you did notnwant Him to come back again. Atheism,noddly made possible only afternChrist, is in its most consistent formnwhen holding that man takes the placenof God because he must not owe hisnexistence to anybody except himself.nThe most powerful ideologies of ournown time, often in competition, arenalike in agreeing on this doctrine.nThis deep-laid distortion of thenmeaning of personality led to the deliberatentransference over the past fourncenturies of,all value from “othernworldly” to “this worldly.” Such anJoseph Schwartz is professor ofnEnglish at Marquette University.nnnbasal shift shaped itself finally into annultimate opposition. As Walker Percynput it, two gods are one god too manynfor the cosmos. In such a situation it isnimpossible to be neutral. The placenfrom v’here we start as we face thenworld determines our judgments andnour moral principles. Hence, the ideanis no longer shocking that the oppositionnshould be between God and man.nWe do not expect, bolts of lightning tonfall from the heavens or the very stonesnto cry out, and, alas, if they do, we donnot hear them. Where theism triednand failed, positive humanism offerednthe needed remedy, the somethingncompletely new. The undergraduatencommencement orator at the Universitynof Wisconsin (1875) spoke fornModernism when he said, “THEnKINGDOM OF MAN IS ATnHAND.”nOr so its supporters belieed then.nThe shocking experience of the pastnfour centuries, however, so differentnthan anticipated, caught up with thentimes and forced a radical review ofnpositive humanism. For one, the newnreligion of man had no way of dealingnwith the primitive terror—elemental,nviolent, untamed—which is in thenindividual and in society. And by then19th century, the authority of personality,none of the great achievements ofnChristianity, was undermined and exhaustednby being forced to play a role itncould never master. Its flutters of independencencould not cure the wound ofnthe heart. That Jones should wind upnworshiping Jones turned out to be asnpeccant as G.K. Chesterton promisednit would be.nGenesis had defined the essentialntemptation (and the cause of the Fall):n”You will be like God.” In the greatntradition of literature, this argument ofnthe individual case is always a dreadnargument. Whenever characters innsuch high dramas plead the dreadnargument of the individual case,nclaiming that they are responsible tonno tribunal but themselves, they inevitablynfind themselves facing the abyss.nLet Anna Karenina, the most glamorousnexemplar of the I9th century,nstand for all of them.nJames .Turner is not as interested innliterature as he is in letters. Using suchndocuments he aims to explain in WithoutnGod, Without Creed how it becamenpossible for many people in then