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.
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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.