It works (even as naturalism flounders for justification and adherents):
The point of Darwinism was that the bird with the longer beak could reach worms (let us say) at the bottom of a deeper hole; that the birds who could not do so would die; and he alone would remain to found a race of long-beaked birds. . . . But the point was that the fittest did not need to struggle against the unfit. The survivor had nothing to do except to survive, when the others could not survive. He survived because he alone had the features and organs necessary for survival. And, whatever be the truth about mammoths or monkeys, that is the exact truth about the present survival of religion. It is surviving because nothing else can survive.
And according to Chesterton, why does religion outdo its naturalist competitors? In part because it gives humans the hope of freedom and transcendence from determinism, which he sees as naturalism’s Achilles’ heel:
The whole trend of it, which began as a drive and has ended in a drift, is towards some form of the theory that a man cannot help himself; that a man cannot mend himself; above all, that a man cannot free himself. . . . We are practically told that we might as well ask a fossil to reform itself. We are told that we are asking a stuffed bird to repent. We are all dead, and the only comfort is that we are all classified. For by this philosophy, which is the same as that of the blackest of Puritan heresies, we all died before we were born. But as it is Kismet without Allah, so also it is Calvinism without God.
In other words, for Chesterton, evolutionary naturalism is bleaker even than Calvinism. In Calvinism, if you are amongst the elect, you at least have a hope of heaven and release from the miseries of this determinate world. But if you are a naturalist, you don’t even have that. All you have is chemistry and physics doing blind and determinate things for which you, ultimately, are contingently, and without any purpose, tagging along.
In short, naturalism loses contact with humanity’s collective sanity and common sense (that we obviously have free will). Naturalism, because it cannot ultimately acknowledge this crucial measure of our own collective control, flounders for broad acceptance where religion does not. And so Chesterton says of naturalism:
It was nonsense that could not be made the basis of any common system, such as has been founded upon common sense.
And that’s one reason that religion is so robust a social creature—even if its basic assumptions (that God is real and people have free will) may, in fact, be utterly false.
The above quotes from Chesterton come from his essay “The Return to Religion” (from his 1935 book The Well and the Shadows ).