Abraham did the right thing when he argued with God about God’s intention to kill everyone in Sodom and Gomorrah (not when he agreed to sacrifice his son Isaac). By standing up for his ethical ideals in opposition to the demands of his religion, Abraham foreshadowed the values of the Enlightenment.
Neiman believes that we should adopt certain key Enlightenment values, in opposition to cultural trends on both the right and the left (but mostly the right). She focuses on happiness, reason, reverence and hope. She contends that Enlightenment thinkers understood the limitations of reason. They also realized that progress is not inevitable. But thinkers like Kant showed the way to a universalist morality that favors reason over tradition, knowledge over superstition, and hope over fear. (12/26/10)