Religion stands at the threshold of all the great literatures of the world. Philosophy is its offspring and is a child which constantly returns to its parent. And the same is true of social institutions. Kingship and law are religious institutions and even today they have not entirely divested themselves of their numinous character, as we can see in the English coronation rite and in the formulas of our law courts. All the institutions of family and marriage and kinship have a religious background and have been maintained and are still maintained by formidable social sanctions.Gone are the days. What René Girard has helped us realize is that it is the Christian revelation that has led to the desacralization of our institutions, beginning with the "rending of the Temple veil" at the crucifixion. That is a very long story, but it is also a story of our cultural neglect. For the Christian alternative to what Girard once called the "primitive sacred" is a combination of what Philip Rieff calls fresh new interdicts -- a vibrant system of moral constrains -- and what catholic Christianity calls the sacramental life of the Church.
Without such moral constrains (themselves requiring religious underpinning) and the sacramental instantiation of these constraints into the lived experience of those being civilized by them -- without that, secularism and nihilism follow as night follows day.
As late in the day as it is, we must, I feel, commit ourselves ever anew to the task of clarifying our present predicament and summoning the moral, intellectual and religious resources requisite to its amelioration. The happiness, wellbeing and freedom of children's children are on the line.