In a word, I have no faith in divine providence or in its secular analogue, moral progress. I don’t believe that the vicious automatically pay for their evil deeds or that the virtuous are rewarded in the end.

That’s something of a heresy in America, since it amounts to a rejection of our civil religion, which has always posited something special about us, something divinely favored. We have a mission, a destiny. Our national fate, the fate of humanity, and the fate of democracy and freedom in the world are somehow deeply intertwined and guided by God’s hand. He is not an impartial observer. Bad things might happen to us from time to time. But when it does, it is a test that we are predestined to pass and that God uses as a goad to spur us to greater acts of righteousness.

I’ll grant that if the formative events of your life were America’s victory against fascism in World War II and its triumph over communist totalitarianism in the Cold War, this way of looking at history can feel very right. Our opponents in both conflicts were responsible for a lot of evil. There were many moments in each struggle when the outcome appeared uncertain. And yet in both cases, the good guys won and the bad guys lost, with the latter’s ideological justifications seemingly relegated (in the words of George W. Bush) to “history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies.”