Atheism and positivism see themselves as destroying the last vestiges of superstition and view theism as idolatrous and superstitious. Whereas humanistic forms of the Enlightenment transfer the sense of the sacred to the human person or the human soul, these more radical approaches undertake to eliminate any ground of religious, and therefore of idolatrous, feeling. By reducing everything to matter and space, or to the immediate data of sense experience, all the mysteries that had tantalized the human mind from time immemorial, tempting it to identify this or that as sacred, were set aside. The only tasks remaining were those of explaining and controlling material processes. People thought that by directing their attention to the practical and answerable questions they could gain control of events and build the society of their dreams.
That expectation has now collapsed. The world constructed by those who refused ultimate questions is not more safe, more just, more loving, or more hopeful than the ones constructed by cultures preoccupied with ultimate questions. This approach has succeeded in greatly increasing the numbers of people and the quantity of artifacts on the earth. But even in these accomplishments it is not secure. The growth economy is faltering. There are massive threats to human life, and now it appears that the very growth in which such pride has been taken is the cause of the threat to its continuance. With the abandonment of ultimate questions, horizons shrink to too-limited a range for effective guidance of human decisions. Even the resources on which the great expansion of population and goods was built were ignored in planning for the future. Their limits caught the planners by surprise.
—For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future; Daly & Cobb; pg 401-402