We can know (not just learn, but know) by senses, experience (history), authority and memory. Memory is the facet of knowing that allows us to start somewhere new every day (every day is new, if repetitive) without a trip back to square one. Some things we know from day to day and, flawed as memory might be, we start over from where memory leaves us off the previous conscious period.
If memory is an acceptable conduit for the flow of knowledge, the rich racial memory of religion makes it quite unacceptable to "start over" today with the absence of God. Various social commentators tell us that a system beginning with the absence of God will naturally not end in belief but will look at all points along the way for reasons to disbelieve, even if it cannot disprove.
Modern secularists are equally correct in their unfaith statement, to wit, if there is no God, then there is no purposeful basis for life, no real right or wrong and no principle on which ethics may be formulated. Life is and then is not. The secularists who posit this end to life struggle mightily to put forward some meaningful reason to live and act "right." Without resort to ultimate meaning they fail miserably. Often they end with some ethereal appeal to "do our best" in light of "what we think is right."
To do our best according to what we think is right at the moment is potentially dangerous if we take seriously the depraved state of man. Depravity just means we will do whatever heinous thing we are able to do if we have the needed motive and opportunity. Depravity gives sway to various deplorable personality traits (ask Mel Gibson). Among the deplorable personality traits we would have to include narcissism, the tendency to personal self-absorption and self-approval.
The narcissism epidemic spreading through Western culture allows (insists?) persons to set aside self-effacement from the rich cultural history of humankind. We once thought a narcissist was a person of inner insecurity but more recent studies indicate the self-love a narcissist feels is deep and sincere. His memory is of his own importance, not of his failings. He may alternate between speech that is profane and self-righteous, for he sets the standard, and lesser beings (all others) exist mostly to fulfill his needs and feelings about himself.
While about 6.2% of the American population feels this way, the number among persons in their 20's is 9.4% according to recent studies. The self-esteem revolution of the 70's and 80's worked wonders for narcissism. It is quite possible the ancient religious cultures are disappearing in large part because of idolatry, which, in this case, would be mostly personal idolatry. (See David Brooks, "The Gospel of Mel," New York Times (On-Line) Op-Ed, Friday, July 16, 2010).
An individual who is his own idol will not often exhibit remorse because he does not feel empathy. His view is the one and only view, his well being is what matters. His earliest memories are his most valid memories (thought processes from which he begins each day) but they are as far back as he goes. Ancient cultures are nothing. The faith of his fathers is the very reason his fathers failed so badly, as he sees it. His social understanding is that he is the center of his society. There really is not much more, except as it entertains or aggrandizes him.
So, the loss of religion (religious knowledge) is the direct result of malevolent capriciousness from the deep wells of narcissism, the reservoir of personal idolatry. Our culture is sinful (rebellious toward God) for the original reason, personal idolatry, misled by a promise of knowledge for which we utterly lack wisdom.
Therefore, the cure for what ails our culture is this; the memory of God.
Opinions expressed here are mine alone and do not reflect the view of any other persons or organizations.