What the secularists forgot is that Homo sapiens is the meaning-seeking animal. If there is one thing the great institutions of the modern world do not do, it is to provide meaning. Science tells us how but not why. Technology gives us power but cannot guide us as to how to use that power. The market gives us choices but leaves us uninstructed as to how to make those choices. The liberal democratic state gives us freedom to live as we choose but refuses, on principle, to guide us as to how to choose.
Science, technology, the free market and the liberal democratic state have enabled us to reach unprecedented achievements in knowledge, freedom, life expectancy and affluence.
But they do not answer the three questions that every reflective individual will ask at some time in his or her life: Who am I? Why am I here? How then shall I live? The result is that the 21st century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning.
Religion has returned because it is hard to live without meaning. That is why no society has survived for long without either a religion or a substitute for religion. The 20th century showed, brutally and definitively, that the great modern substitutes for religion—nation, race, political ideology—are no less likely to offer human sacrifices to their surrogate deities.