What best characterizes the modern age? I would say that modernity is the age in which major military attempts are made to destroy the Roman Catholic Church.
Modernity is NOT characterized by “secularization” as most intellectuals seem to think. Just look at the rest of the world. Religion is growing everywhere. Hinduism is resurgent in India. Islam is growing in both numbers and militancy throughout the world. Eastern Orthodoxy is growing in both the Baltics and in Putin’s Russia. Judaism is alive and well and experiencing a rebirth in Israel. Charismatic forms of protestant Christianity are on the rise in both South America and Africa. Buddhism is experiencing massive growth in both its home countries and in the West.
The only religion that is on the defensive is Roman Catholic Christianity. That is because the one true church, the catholic church has been under concerted attack by the rest of the world religions ever since the dawn of the modern age. It began with the Protestant reformation.
When catholicism flowered during the Italian and Northern European renaissance, some people reacted with fear and envy rather than admiration, gratitude and reverence. This fear and resentment against the Church-sponsored intellectual awakening and artistic flowering fueled a strong backlash against the church beginning with Luther in the North in what is now Germany–a territory where the Arian heresy lasted up to the middle ages. The Protestant “reformation” actually consisted of active military suppression and state terror against catholic communities in the newly minted protestant countries and military attacks against the Hapsburg Catholic territories.
The protestant wars against Catholicism issued in a stalemate but the protestant intellectuals had not given up. Across western Europe protestant intellectuals began to paint the church as backward and superstitious and argued that Europe needed an enlightenment. The age of the enlightenment, however, involved extreme forms of persecution against Catholics across Europe (see especially Ireland and southern Germany) and the new country of America despite all its high flown rhetoric of religious freedom and toleration. The enlightenment also gave birth to the the French revolution with its rabid “anti-clericalism” which was really an outright assault on everything Catholic in France, Germany and Britain. The massacres of priests and nuns in these countries during the revolutionary period only slowed down but did not cease during the Napoleonic era. After Napoleon was defeated largely by Russian, Hapsburg and Catholic Polish forces, the anti-catholic legacy of the French revolution was taken up by the emerging communist movement until the uprisings of 1848 which once again involved bloody attacks against catholic communities throughout Europe. There was a brief period of respite during the latter half of the 19th century until the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 where we again note another series of attacks against the church including of course the orthodox church in Russia. World War I put an end to the catholic Hapsburg monarchy of Europe and then came the Nazis. All of these “movements” were virulently anti-Christian and specifically anti-Catholic. But none were able to destroy the Church. After the Nazis were defeated in World War II Vatican II occurred just 15 years later.
We are now faced a with a new array of forces out to destroy the church. The secular elites of the West, the heirs of the protestant intellectuals of past centuries, are now joined by a resurgent Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, charismatic protestantism and Hinduism. All are actively hostile to Roman catholicism. Only the eastern orthodox are not actively hostile though there are centuries of animosity there too.
This is the current situation facing the church today. Let he who has eyes to see, see.