'We are now hard-wired to expect history to deliver progress, jerky, flawed progress marred by horrors usually of our own making, but progress nonetheless. We look back primarily in order to see how far we have moved on. And one central element in that ever-growing sense of self-confidence was the gradual exclusion of religion from the picture. Man had wriggled free of the divine plan. We were no longer the creation of the mind of God but the product of natural development.
This wriggling-free was not accomplished without pain or regret. To extricate ourselves from religious belief was a slow and often agonizing proceeds which left many heads muzzy with grief, disorientated in a universe that was suddenly without purpose or pathways. In such a time, only the most confident ideologues of progress could remain confident that they knew exactly where they were heading.
What none of them would have dreamed of saying was that we might be retracing our steps. That would have been a deeply uncongenial thought. For part of the ideology of modernity is that we are moving forward and that we are going somewhere new. It is our novelty that comforts us. We are travelers who are thrilled to be told that we have reached the trackless quarter of the desert. Besides, it is better not to think too hard about what we have left behind.'
Ferdinand Mount, Full Circle, p.6.