I once had the opportunity to go on a picnic with a friend, and Will and Ariel Durant, those historians whose books were given to people who subscribed to the Book-of-the-Month club. I asked them what message they could take away from studying all these different civilizations. They said they found when a society lost its religious underpinnings it began to disintegrate.
My mother is close to death and I've been singing the favorite hymns she loved to create a connection to a body that suffered from Alzheimer's for over 10 years. They say there's no atheists in a foxhole and yesterday I was praying and singing some of the gospel songs I have on iTunes.
The experience is very painful, but I had a way to let my feelings out thanks to Steve Jobs and Jesus.
The need for religious underpinnings is becoming quite clear in China. Before Deng Xiaoping, the people could believe in communism, despite what Mao had done to them through the great leap forward and the cultural revolution.
Now money is the new God in China. I was surprised to see the image of Kong Fu Zi (Confucius) in the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics. Perhaps the nine men who run China thought the people needed a old/new glue to hold them together. You can see how the tea party manipulates that need for common values in order to take us back to 1951, where African Americans and Asians knew their place, and white people could feel comfortable.
They say there are people who don't have the gene for religiosity. I however, have a need for a belief system that can sustain me. As I said in my article about Nirvana, I don't claim to have the only path to a Higher Power or union with the cosmos. But it seems all societies need it and some of us, individually, need it even more.