Sohrab Ahmari has written a very good piece for The Spectator ("The unenlightenment: liberalism comes at a cost", 1st May 2021), which I encourage you to read in full. I want to focus on the core aspect of it, in which Ahmari contests the liberal claim to neutrality. Ahmari summarises this liberal ideal as follows:
The ideal is that a new liberal order ushers in a new, rational, tolerant and secular regime: cleaving apart day-to-day politics from religion and metaphysics. So instead of enshrining any one orthodoxy, a liberal neutral ground would be created, one that could be contested by rival accounts of the good life. The religious would be able to live happily beside the unbelievers, with all minorities protected.
Ahmari points out the obvious: that in practice the public square in a liberal society is not neutral but that one orthodoxy has been replaced by another:
But has that really come to pass? Given man’s inclination to worship, to build altars in the public square, our societies will always enshrine some orthodoxy or other (and, therefore, empower some clerisy or other). The only questions are: which orthodoxy? Which clerics? If the past couple of years have made anything clear, it is that there is to be no neutrality. The West must choose.
Do we enshrine the orthodoxy of the latest theories on race, sex and gender? Do we empower the woke clerisy, the army of blue-check Twitterati and HR managers who can destroy careers and lives in a matter of minutes over the smallest of ideological infractions, and whose judgments are subject to no reasoned appeal and no code of canon law? Do we live under their new blasphemy laws, ostensibly designed to prohibit ‘hate speech’?
Or do we choose the more forgiving, perhaps old-fashioned orthodoxy that sustained western culture for the better part of two millennia? The Judaeo-Christian values and institutions that venerated natural reason, that by their discipline tamed the big and small would-be tyrants of Europe, reminding them that there exists a higher power than theirs?
I thought this part very good as well:
Anyone, left or right, calling today’s progressive order into question — or daring to propose alternatives — is first asked to apologise for these horrors, stretching from antiquity to whenever enlightened time began (which may be as recently as a couple of years ago). This is a type of intellectual blackmail, and the best defence against it is to go on the offence: no, it’s the actually existing present that increasingly resembles a dystopia, and the onus is on the liberal to give account and apology. The non-liberal’s rejoinder can be summed up with three simple words: look around you.
Look around you: has liberalism delivered on its own terms, on its promise of neutrality between world views?