In The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions, Michael Walzer compares three countries—Algeria, India, and Israel—that gained their independence from European rule thanks to secular revolutionary movements and are now experiencing a resurgence of religion. In his review, Peter Berger suggests that there is nothing paradoxical about Walzer’s “paradox”:
[N]othing Walzer says . . . seems to really recognize the transcendent claims, consolatory appeal, or experiences provided by the religions under discussion. Nor does it recognize religion as a context in which to express the most basic questions about our place in the universe. Pascal described the human condition as standing at the midpoint between “the nothing and the infinite,” and religion has been the principal vehicle through which this truly paradoxical position and our ensuing wonder at the universe have been expressed.
Walzer’s central case is Israel. He is both puzzled and frankly disappointed that its founders failed to create a new secular culture “thick or robust enough to sustain itself” without the unwanted help of traditionalism. I am not quite sure that this is the way the issue should be framed. On the one hand, groups that assert their superior wisdom and virtue with great pretensions of certitude always have a tactical edge over those whose convictions are less apodictic and more moderate. On the other hand, there is, by almost any measure, a robust secular culture in Israel, which is very much alive and tempting to those outside it.