Modernism is the worldview ushered in by the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment provided a new guardian of truth to replace the church -- science. Modernism therefore proffered the idea that mankind, armed with rationalism and science, is able to access absolute truth and make unlimited progress toward a better life for itself. Therefore, at its core, modernity is a celebration of human autonomy.
Some have conjectured that while the roots of modernity were evident many years before, the actual birth of modernism was in 1789 at the fall of the Bastille in France during the French Revolution. Gene Veith reasons, "The French Revolution exemplifies the triumph of the Enlightenment. With the destruction of the Bastille, the prison in which the monarchy jailed its political prisoners, the pre-modern world with its feudal loyalties and spiritual hierarchies was guillotined. The revolutionaries exalted the Rights of Man. They dismissed Christianity as a relic of the past. During the course of the revolution, they installed the Goddess of Reason in Notre Dame Cathedral." ^1^
- Gene Edward Veith, Postmodern Times (Wheaton:Crossway, 1994) p. 27.