by Charles Whitaker (1944-2021)
Europe's culture has its roots in religion, namely in the teachings of Roman Catholicism and, later, in the various Protestant centers of power in northern Europe. European culture is defined and shaped by Catholic and Protestant Christianity. Cases aside, the various power structures ruling Europe ultimately were beholden to the Church.
Things have changed. Robert Wilkin, writing in "The Church as Culture," (First Things, April 2004, p. 31), asserts that "only 20 percent of [Germany's] population today professes adherence to Christianity." He bemoans the insouciance, the nonchalance, with which Germans today say, Ich bin Heide, "I am a heathen." The falling away from Christianity began with the First World War, and has increased to a fever pitch after the fall of Bolshevik Communism in early 1989.
Today, many of the great cathedrals of European cities, structures centuries in the building, have become more museum than church, more tourist-trap than house of worship. The selling of baubles has replaced the practice of liturgy. Much of Western Europe has been called the "great plain of irreligion."
This change did not take place through external conquest. While Europe has not been free from war, of course, it has been largely free from the pains of external invasion for almost a millennium. Yet, the change in religious orientation has not been accidental or the result of "natural" economic forces. This "collapse of Christian civilization," claims Wilkin, was "deliberate and intentional, not only promoted by the cultural despisers of Christianity but often aided and abetted by Christians themselves."
This undeniable state of affairs—and it is undeniable—seems counterfactual to members of God's true church. After all, did we not understand that the False Prophet was to come out of European Christianity? Was he not to unify it, and, in collaboration with the Beast power, construct a European power structure that would shock the world and eventually rule it? Yet, today Europe is not militarily strong. In addition, the Catholic Church is apparently imploding under the pressure of political and doctrinal dissent.
Moreover, Europe seems to be committing suicide by "systematically depopulating itself," to borrow a term from George Weigel's article, "Europe's Problem—and Ours" (First Things, February 2004, p. 18). The birthrate of many European nations is below the replacement level. Weigel points out, for example, that Spain's population will decline from its current level of 40 million to 31.3 million by about 2050. That represents a decline of nearly 22%. Many wars are not so devastating. Solzhenitsyn appears to be right: Europe is in "a rage of self-mutilation."
From this torn fabric world-ruling kingdoms are not cut.
Weigel believes that the root of Europe's problems lies in what a Jesuit priest, Henri de Lubac, calls "atheistic humanism." This is not the isolated and usually thoughtless atheism of the oddball skeptic or cynic, embittered by some personal experience. No, this atheism is dangerous because it is buttressed by a philosophy—humanism. In short, atheistic humanism is "the deliberate rejection of the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus, in the name of authentic human liberation." Its agenda lurks behind almost every headline we read today: the remaking of the world into a liberal technocracy where freedom becomes individual willfulness and the rule of law becomes subservient to science. God has no part of all this; in the world of the humanist, He has become deceased. Religion is irrational. Faith in anything except scientific progress is superstitious. Piety is silly.
As a result of her heedless (and headless) sprint into atheistic humanism, Europe has abandoned almost two millennia of her history and tradition. This leaves her rootless. A few Catholic—and fewer Protestant—church-people have called for a return to Europe's traditional Christian roots. Such cries fall on the deaf ears of Europe's elites and rank-and-file alike. In the meantime, narcoleptic Europeans do not perceive a real threat.
Europe, for the first time in a millennium, is being invaded. As Christians murder their children in a frenzy of abortion—their newfound freedom, long denied them by their Christian tradition—immigrants from North Africa, Turkey, Pakistan, and other areas of the Arab world, pour in. They have traditionally high birthrates. In the long run, Martel's victory over the Moors and Sobieshi's over the Turks may be for naught, as radicalized Islamists "colonize" Europe, finally realizing their ancestors' dreams of conquering the bastion of Catholic Christianity. Europe of the late twenty-first century may be Islamist!
Samuel Huntington's "clash of civilization" is an understatement, for what the world will shortly face is the clash of Abrahamic religions. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam (which is in fact a heresy of Christianity) will clash in Europe. The ramifications will be worldwide. Chaos, not to mention bloodshed, will be everywhere, in every area of life. In the midst of this maelstrom of death, the leadership that will restore order will arise. The people will wonder: "Who is able to make war with him?" The world will worship: "Who is like the beast?" (Revelation 13:4).
Do not look for Europe to slide peacefully into its prophesied role of world domination. It will not happen that way. The cowardly voice of Osama bin Laden has made that clear.