Why Religion and the Humanities Are in Decline

What is useful is inherently teleological: calling something “useful” invokes the question “useful for what?” But modernity resists this question by multiplying means without any clear ends. We live an infinite regress of usefulness with little sense of the point of our labors. In a world that only understands useful things, interest in humanities and religious faith (both of which consider human purpose) will inevitably decline.
Michael Lamb’s A Commonwealth of Hope: Augustine’s Political Thought is an important intervention not only in Augustine studies, but also in our politics of stagnation and hopelessness. Lamb shows that if we hope rightly, we can work in and for the pilgrim city and for earthly cities. Augustine’s descriptions of life’s evils and turmoils should awaken us to life’s uncertainties, our lack of self-sufficiency, and our need for mercy.
The term “humanist” is disputed because what it means to be a human is itself disputed. But much of the world has forgotten this dispute. It defaults to secular humanism, which doesn’t look beyond the self; it is a self-referential philosophy of life. The heart of Catholic humanism, by contrast, is knowing that human beings can only be understood in relation to God.
We are increasingly becoming afflicted by the who/whom logic of Lenin. For Lenin, when it comes to political aggression, what matters is who performs the action and upon whom it is performed. But, in reality, the whom you attack is a who in reality. Just as you are a self, so too are they a self.
If the New Atheists were able to convince people to leave, then we too might be able to convince some to come back. Ideas and writing can change lives. If the New Atheists did it, then we Christian writers can be a saving remnant and help write people back into the faith.