Is there Hope for the Future without Religion?

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Giandomenico Mucci, SJ

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Reviewing a recently published volume that translates as Journey to the End of the West: Secular divergence and the rise of nationalism,[1] Sabino Cassese has written:

Darkness falls. The West disappears. We have all suddenly become racist or nationalist. Fates diverge. The human person is pushed to the sidelines. A sense of irresponsibility spreads. Society turns into a thousand recesses; it no longer has room for common goals. Well-being, solidarity and the rule of law all lag behind. Democracy is weakening. New leaders advocate authoritarian politics. People dissociate themselves from the past and the memory of war fades. The emphasis on what threatens triggers the desire for strict rules and punishment of deviance and pushes people to re-insert themselves in their own cultures.[2]

He continues: Technological change, economic crisis and globalization have produced a protracted decline of states, regions, professions and individuals. Divergence is a deeper issue than inequality because it refers to the projection of the self into one’s own future. States have made the situation worse by resorting to strategies that have shifted the political costs to future generations. Inequalities are easily remedied by fiscal policies; it takes many years to overcome divergences. Europe is particularly vulnerable.

The picture is rather grim and, here and there, brings to mind certain famous analyses by Huizinga, Ortega y Gasset, or Croce. But even in our time there is no lack of positive aspects.

Despite the revival of nationalism, we have been living for seventy years in a peaceful Europe, and life expectancy is increasing. The social tensions and intrigues that made people doubt society and the state (terrorism, attempted coups) have not been repeated in recent years. Political participation, while decreasing, does not fall below that of other European countries. State weaknesses are partly compensated for by other bodies. Society, although confronted by fears and discomforts, is acquiescent. If young people do not have a bright future, their families compensate. While globalization leads backward in some matters, in others it leads forward. The weight of public debt is high, but it has almost always been so during the history of a united Italy. While there is no ‘dream of a more beautiful life,’ as in the Renaissance, the hope of improving the world is not gone. If the ruling elites are unable to point to a future and merely declare that they want to interpret the will of the ‘people,’ the latter have not come to a halt. They are still looking for ways and surrogates.

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