His strong point is that religion never lost faith in using culture to improve vulnerable, childlike souls. It understands, he contends, human frailties and how to work on them better than godless polities. He’s at his most bracing when he proposes wholesale educational reform, suggesting that universities’ humanities departments should be overhauled to do what John Stuart Mill and Matthew Arnold hoped for them, namely to instil wisdom. He recommends: “Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary would thus be assigned in a course on understanding the tensions in marriage instead of in one focused on narrative trends in 19th-century fiction, just as the recommendations of Epicurus and Seneca would appear in the syllabus for a course about dying.”

Doesn’t instrumentalising culture thus involve traducing it? “Religion is very unembarrassed about this – culture should have a purpose. I agree with it. Arnold said that culture should be a salve for society. Then in the late 19th century you get the late romantics, Oscar Wilde and then the modernists, Joyce and TS Eliot, who say ‘No – art is a privileged sphere and shouldn’t have a purpose’. But I have a practical attitude: I’ll use a particular poet or particular music or art to get me through something. I would be even more of a basket case without culture. “