Europe, America, and Politics Without God

Published October 16, 2005

The Brussels Journal

The following excerpt was taken from an interview in which EPPC Senior Fellow George Weigel discusses his book The Cube and the Cathedral with Paul Belien from The Brussels Journal. The discussion touches on the implications for the future of politics in a secularized Europe and America, the difference between “Red” and “Blue” America, Christians in the culture war, and demographic suicide.

What puzzles me is why the Americans, who are originally Europeans, are not infected by [the mentality you describe]? When I read the book I get the impression that the cube for you is also a metaphor of Europe, while the cathedral, or the society with God still in a prominent place, can be seen as a metaphor of America. This is strange because the cube is the more modern building and the cathedral is a mediaeval building. So you might even argue that America is a more mediaeval culture than Europe.

Well, I did not intend it that way, because there are elements of the cube and the cathedral in both the United States and in Western Europe.

Why has America not gone so far on this road? Because America was not founded against biblical religion. America was founded from biblical religion. America’s experience of democracy is democracy as the product of Christian culture. However, that is changing here too. If you read The New York Times and The Washington Post, the liberal media in general, or if you listen to Senate Democrats interrogating John Roberts for the Supreme Court you know that Europe is in America. The idea that the only public space safe for democracy, the only public space capable of civility, is a thorougly secularized public space, this idea is present in the United States as well. But it is not dominant in the United States.

What has happened in Western Europe since 1968 is that secularization has been transformed from a sociological datum to an ideology. This ideology was most manifestly clear in the bizarre argument over whether the preamble to the European Constitutional Treaty should acknowledge the Christian roots of European civilization.

One can also see the book as a metaphor of what is nowadays called the “red” versus the “blue” America. The “red” stands for the conservative, faith centered American culture and the “blue” is basically the more “European” America. You focus your book on Europe and you say that what happens in Europe is the logical result of secularization. The subtitle is Europe, America, and Politics Without God, so is the book also a warning for Americans?

No, there are certainly cube elements largely present in the United States. Moreover, this “blue America, red America” thing is a bit tiresome after a while, particularly since the good guys have the wrong colour. “Red” America should be the Left, but that is an accident of an NBC electoral map of five years ago.

There are at least two, probably even three, justices on the Supreme Court who would like to import into the United States, via a very strange interpretation of the Constitution, the kind of secularist mindset that I think has done such damage in Europe. That is a real problem here.

On the other hand, it is not simply that America was founded differently. The United States is being replenished in a different way, in part because “red” America tends to have much larger families than “blue” America and also tends to transmit religious conjunction, and in part because the largest immigration into the United States, both legal and illegal, is Hispanic, which is to say Christian. It is confusedly diverse, but nonetheless Christian. Houston is now forty per cent Hispanic, but it is still Christian. This is not Marseille or a place which is ten to fifteen percent Islamic.

[read more]

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

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