That unworldly stimulus
“Literacy became virtually universal in Western civilization when and where it began to seem essential for people to be able to read the Bible. All the immeasurable practical benefits that came with mass literacy, its spectacular utility, awaited that unworldly stimulus. Clearly mere utility is not sufficient to sustain it at even functional levels, though the penalties of illiteracy are now very severe.”
Marilynne Robinson, The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought (Boston, 1998), page 9.