"European man has convinced himself that in order to be modern and free, he must be radically secular," [George Weigel writes in The Cube and the Cathedral]. "That conviction and its public consequences are at the root of Europe's contemporary crisis of civilizational morale."…
Practicing Christianity in Europe today enjoys a status not dissimilar to smoking marijuana or engaging in unorthodox sexual activities — few people mind if you do so in private, but you are expected not to talk about it or ask others whether they do it too. Christianity is considered retrograde and atavistic in a "progressive" society devoted to the good life — long holidays, short work hours and generous government benefits.
…Without a religious dimension, Mr. Weigel notes, a commitment to human freedom is likely to be attenuated, too weak to make sacrifices in its name. Europe's political elites especially, but its citizens as well, believe in freedom and democracy of course, but they are reluctant to put the "good life" on hold and put lives on the line when freedom is in need of a champion — say, in the Balkans or, especially, in Iraq. (Mr. Weigel is at pains to emphasize, however, that his analysis is not born of disenchantment over European popular opposition to the Iraq war.)
The good of human freedom, by European lights, must be weighed against the risk and cost of actually fighting for it. It is no longer transcendent, absolute. In such a world, governed by a narrow utilitarian calculus, sacrifice is rare, and churches go unvisited.
Thursday, April 14, 2005
With an overemphasis on the "good life", a commitment to human freedom is likely to be attenuated, too weak to make sacrifices in its name
The Wall Street Journal's Brian M Carney tries to explain Europe's atheistic humanism and Why Europe's great churches are empty.