For Dennett and Dawkins, the physical universe in all its blind complexity is sufficiently amazing to cater for our sense of wonder and awe, and any attribution of supernatural forces actually detracts from those qualities.
But such a sense of wonder — one that overcomes the sense of indifference and emptiness of a mindless infinity — is far more likely to be found within people who are actually working with the raw material of such a universe, whether it be a gene or a quark, or the idea of dark matter, and who are therefore in a process of exchange with the cosmic model that they themselves are producing.
In part, this is because the campaign to move religion out of the centre of social and political life had largely been won across the course of the twentieth century, and those who fought it — the Rationalists and Sceptics and other such groups — had thereby acquired the air of cranky obsessives.
From the availability of birth control to being able to go to the cinema on Sunday, the victories were so comprehensive that they obscured the struggles required to win them, and the degree to which this was an enormous social revolution.
Recently, UK PM Tony Blair got into the act, suggesting that God — rather than the world or the voters — would judge him over his actions in Iraq: a sign of the degree to which the US-style prophetic voice is moving into other societies.
In Australia, it is visible in the success of the Hillsong and other churches, which are able to draw not only thousands of people to their events and conferences, but also to make it prudent for politicians such as Bob Carr to appear on their stages.
The fundamentalist Christian revival has spread beyond its particular social and cultural bounds in the US to become a major force within every area of social life.
Not only has ‘intelligent design’ — the refashioned notion of creationism — made a major assault on the US educational system, but large, fundamentalist-style churches, with a charismatic and ecstatic form of worship involving stadium-style Christian rock concerts and assemblies, have gathered large numbers of young followers.
The energy of the fundamentalist Christian revival has created its own momentum, moving into the cultural life of social groups and classes that would hitherto have been uninterested in it.
On campuses, where secular humanism — or plain apathy — would once have been the dominant attitude with regard to religion, it is the Christian youth groups that are drawing large numbers of followers.