Winter 1998

“The Religious Sense” and American Culture

David L. Schindler

Commenting on the cultural situation of the Anglo-Saxon world, the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre once remarked that,

[Our] difficulty lies in the combination of atheism in the practice of the life of the vast majority, with the profession of either superstition or theism by that same majority. The creed of the English is that there is no God and that it is wise to pray to him from time to time.1

Luigi Giussani’s account of “the religious sense,” set forth in his book of the same title, helps us to see that this is the creed not only of the English but of Americans as well. Indeed, I believe the book’s significance lies above all in its exposure of atheism—or, to put it in positive terms, the “religious sense”—as the fundamental cultural issue of our time.

Now the most obvious objection to any suggestion that America’s fundamental cultural issue is atheism, or the lack of religion, is that it appears to run up against the facts. And so we need to set an American context for Giussani’s argument.


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1. A. MacIntyre, Against the Self-Images of the Age (New York: Schocken Books, 1971), 26.