Published March 11, 2005
One of America’s foremost public intellectuals argues that Europe’s abandonment of its spiritual and cultural roots raises urgent questions about democracy’s future around the world — including the United States.
George Weigel traces the origins of “Europe’s problem” to the atheistic humanism of the nineteenth-century European intellectual life, which set in motion a historical process that produced two world wars, three totalitarian systems, the Gulag, Auschwitz, the Cold War — and, most ominously, the Continent’s de-population, which is worse today than during the Black Death. And yet, many Europeans still insist — most recently, during the debate over a new EU constitution — that only a public square shorn of religiously-informed moral argument is safe for human rights and democracy. Precisely the opposite, Weigel suggests, is true: the people of the “cathedral” can give a compelling account of their commitment to everyone’s freedom; the people of the “cube” cannot. Can there be any true “politics” — any true deliberation about the common good, and any robust defense of freedom — without God? George Weigel makes a powerful case that the answer is “No,” because, in the final analysis, societies are only as great as their spiritual aspirations.
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.