Kevin DeYoung reviews what sounds like a very interesting book: Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950. DeYoung quotes from the author Charles Murray:
With regard to purpose, my position does not require that the secular life be a life without purpose. Rather, I argue that it is harder to find that purpose if one is an atheist or agnostic than if one is a believer. It is harder still to maintain attention to that purpose over years of effort. Devotion to a human cause, whether social justice, the environment, the search for truth, or an abstract humanism, is by its nature less compelling than devotion to God. Here, Christianity has its most potent advantage. The incentives of forgiveness of sin and eternal life are just about as powerful as incentives get. The nonbeliever has to make do with comparably tepid alternatives.
With regard to autonomy, I do not see Christianity as its only source. It is easily possible to believe in one’s efficacy as an autonomous actor by holding the secular Greek ideal of the human….Possible–but, as in the case of purpose, harder if one is not a believing Christian. For evidence, look around at today’s intellectual climate in both Europe and the United States. “Unique,” “free,” “rational,” “powers of observation,” “critical inquiry”–every one of those words and phrases is problematic in today’s postmodern intellectual milieu. It is much easier to use them with confidence if one is a Christian, or still clings to the Christian/humanistic synthesis of early modernity.