Could this be the year of a spiritual revival?

Feared by some and cherished by others, religion could be a force for unity or a new source of division in this new year of 2024.

Jan 12, 2024

Prayer Time in Front of Notre-Dame de Paris, December 2, 2023. (Photo by VINCENT ISORE / IP3 PRESS/MAXPPP)

By Fr Laurent Stalla-Bourdillon
Feared by some and cherished by others, religion could be a force for unity or a new source of division in this new year of 2024. Modernity has not eliminated the need for belief or the search for the meaning of existence. Even artificial intelligence (AI) is trained on religious issues and can answer various questions. But AI lacks life and spirit. It can do nothing for what each individual must achieve in their own life without being able to delegate it to anyone else.

From an anthropological perspective, religion reflects that unknown part of existence that no human thought can explain. It serves as a constant reminder that “man infinitely transcends man,” as Blaise Pascal said. The concept of “God” affirms the permanence of the unknowable for the intelligent creatures that we are. This ignorance often appears as an unbearable and humiliating flaw.

If, in the 20th century, the attempt to eliminate God from the horizon of thought allowed for self-reference, the elimination of the thirst for meaning ? the quest for transcendence ? seems to be the attempt of the 21st century: to make the human being perfectly transparent to oneself and to renounce the pursuit of this truth that transcends them. Only wonder embraces this transcendence.

From a political perspective, the various religions play a role in the governance of peoples. Autocratic regimes know this and find in religion a very powerful adjunct to their politics. Unfortunately, many conflicts have religious pretexts, justifying the desire for domination. Invoking heaven’s will to impose it often produces chaos on earth. Therefore, many of our contemporaries’ view religion as a plague and the cause of war. They turn away from it for good reason. Delivering religion from its counterfeits remains an unfinished task. Renouncing religion does not make one stronger, but rather more fragile, as faith engages reason, and reason stimulates faith.

For several years we have seen that economic and technological globalisation does not create a more united humanity.

Technologies bring people closer but do not make them brothers and sisters. Who can help humanity think about its unity? This path toward unity is the only way to free humanity from the absurdity of its wars. Pope Francis tirelessly urges us to find in friendship and fraternity the answer to this “piecemeal third world war”. Humanity is clearly challenged by its unity and must urgently discover the key so that the tragedies of its history do not repeat themselves. This is our dearest wish for 2024! -- LCI (https://

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