There are tons of causes for the loss of hope in contemporary culture. Maybe I'll hazard to dive into that messy soup some time to show how many contemporary spiritualities contribute to the loss of hope. For now, however, I'll simply state the case. We are a people who have lost hope. For years I've told people that the saddest spiritual disaster among the people I meet is not that they've ceased believing in hell, the devil, and sin. No. Sadly, the real tragedy is that people have lost their belief in heaven.
An old philosophy professor of mine made an astute observation in class one day. He declared to the class that most contemporary people in western society were atheists. He said that's if you include all those Christians who live as if they were atheists, even the devout. I was stunned by his assertion. Experience has taught me that he was right on the money.
If there's no God, there's no heaven. If you live as if there's no God, then you live as if there's no heaven. The net result is the same. Either way is a life doomed to be bereft of hope for the future glory promised to those who repent and believe in the Gospel. One without this hope is bound to seek happiness only in transitory goods. In other words, one is relegated to live a life seeking those things which delight only the senses. Man's spirit is neglected; it atrophies and dies.
At least in ye olde days the vast majority of people lived in a world filled with mystery. The trees had sprites. An elf was around every corner. The gods reigned on Mt. Olympus and the Valkyrie welcomed the noble souls into Valhallah. The rationalism of our time has murdered mystery with the microscope and the pocket calculator. It seems, that on a practical level, Christianity has been similarly wounded. Christ was just one more boogie man to fall victim to the focused analysis of myopic empiricists.
Sadly, believers haven't helped the situation. There has been too much anti-rationalism among believers. Faith has been set in opposition to reason in spite of the heroic efforts of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The result is that these two valid sources of truth have been set as odds against each other. Everybody, as a result, suffers from this intellectual civil war. Hope, it seems, has been one of the conspicuous casualties.
A simulacrum of hope has become a weak replacement in the lives of so many people. Since there is nothing to look forward to after this life, or if we live as if there is nothing to look forward to after this life, then we end up simply seeking those goods we find laying about us. The great good of fulfillment has been replaced by the limited goods of satiety and pleasure. The great good of immortality has been replaced by propagation. The communion of persons has been replaced by casual encounters. In short, heavenly bliss has been replaced by sexual promiscuity.
This isn't simply a case of falling prey to our baser human inclinations. No, the pagans did paganism with far more panache than we could ever muster. We've fallen into a far worse state than our former pagan ways. We've reordered the heavenly and the infinite to the earthly and the finite. We've aborted our hope. We've placed our salvation in our sexuality.