The fundamental question of political legitimacy is the nature and purpose of authority, and thus the nature of man, the world, moral obligation, and the human good—in other words, which religion is correct. Liberalism cannot get by without answering that question, but it answers it indirectly, by claiming moral ignorance. We do not know what the good is, it tells us, so we should treat all desires the same. The satisfaction of all desires thus becomes the unquestionable good. Man becomes the measure, human genius the principle of creation, and individual will the source of value. The limitations on moral knowledge on which the liberal outlook is based lead to a definite result, and so become constituent principles rather than limitations. In short, they constitute a religion, a fact concealed by the moral doubt that is liberalism’s first principle.
This new religion, based on the denial of the knowability of truth, consists in nothing less than the deification of man. To refuse to talk about the transcendent, and view it as wholly out of our reach, seems very cautious and humble. In practice, however, it puts our own thoughts and desires at the center of things, and so puts man in the place of God. If you say we cannot know anything about God, but only our own experience, you will soon say that there is no God, at least for practical purposes, and that we are the ones who give order and meaning to the world. In short, you will say that we are God.