Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Secular culture:
God, the French and the Scottish

Paul Belien in his post "The Closing of Civilization in Europe" contends that Europes problems are self-inflicted, and that they stem from following the French Enlightenment, as opposed to the Scottish Enlightenment. An excerpt:

Europe’s current problems are entirely self-inflicted. This does not mean, however, that the result will be less catastrophic. By subverting the roots of its own Judeo-Christian culture – a process that started with the French Enlightenment (as opposed to the Scottish Enlightenment, which was not anti-religious) – a religious and cultural vacuum was created at the heart of European civilization. The collapse of faith in its own values has, not surprisingly, led to a demographic collapse because a civilization that no longer believes in its own future also rejects procreation. Today, a new religion and culture is supplanting the old one. There is little one can do about it, but hope for a miracle.

America’s immigration problems pale in comparison with what confronts Europe. America’s major ethnic minorities – Blacks as well as Hispanics – are Christian, while the meanstream culture is also rooted in Christianity. In Europe a secularized post-Christian culture is facing a Muslim one. The secularized culture is hedonist and values only its present life, because it does not believe in an afterlife. This is why it will surrender when threatened with death because life is the only thing it has to lose. This is why it will accept submission without fighting for its freedom. Nobody fights for the flag of hedonism, not even the hedonists themselves.

One could also put it in a slightly different way: Europe lacks what America still has, namely the so-called “conservative reserves,” or as the German sociologist Arnold Gehlen explained over 30 years ago, “the reserves in national energy and self-confidence, primitiveness and generosity, wealth and potential of every kind.”...

(bold emphasis mine) In another post, "Anti-Jihad Manifesto Misses the Point", Belien again speaks about European anti-religious secularism, as advocated by European socialists and communists, regarding an Anti-Jihad Manifesto:

...History in the past century, however, has clearly indicated that those fighting for an “egalitarian” world were the most “liberticidal” of all. Freedom is the right to live “unegalitarianly.” This is why The Brussels Journal defends the right of individuals – though not of the state – to “discriminate” (which, by the way, contrary to what the manifesto implies, is not the same as “oppress”). Indeed, it is no coincidence that the manifesto avoids referring to “Socialism” (and even “Communism”) among the scourges of the past century and prefers to speak of “Nazism” and Stalinism” instead. Half the manifesto’s signatories are probably Socialists, which explains why the manifesto obfuscates the secular, Socialist roots of these scourges.

While in America a cultural war is going on between “blue” (liberal) and “red” (conservative), the cultural war in Europe is a three-way war between the European equivalent of the American “blue” (socialist), the European equivalent of the American “red” (conservative, though Europeans often use the term “liberal”) and Muslims. I prefer to refer to the first group as “secularist” (although I realise this is a generalization and many Christians belong to these “secularists,” including – unfortunately – most of our bishops and priests) and to the second group as “Christian” (although many agnostics belong to it). The reason why I make this distinction is because the second group is prepared to acknowledge the importance of the cultural traditions of the West, rooted in the Judeo-Christian values without which classical-liberalism could never have evolved...

It's taken me a while to understand the subtle distinction he's been trying to explain. The secularism which evolved from the French Enlightenment rejects religious faith, and instead embraces socialism and communism. It leaves a religious cultural vacuum, which makes space for Islam, which is both a religion and a political movement.

...The battle that is being waged today is a battle between those who defend the right of individuals against the right of collectivities.

The Islamists and the secularists (including the priests and bishops among them) have more in common than the Islamists and the Christians (including the agnostics among them), because the latter acknowledge that at the heart of Christianity is the individual with his individual responsibility before God. Without Christianity, individual responsibility would not have become the centre of European civilization. It was the French Revolution that jeopardized this tradition and that became the root of collectivism, with its socialist, fascist, national-socialist and communist excesses. From this perspective even Jihadism is more a child of secularism than of religion.

What European secularists (communists, socialists) have in common with the Islamist jihadists is a totalitarian world view. The former rejects religion, the later embraces it, but both share the idea of control, not freedom of choice.

In another post I made recently, I quoted excerpts from an article by George Handlery, which also acknowleged the differences inherent in the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment, as opposed to the French Enlightenment:

...the success of Western Civilization and of its derivates can be attributed to the triumph of reason over irrationality in the course of its development. This process had its modest beginnings in the Middle Ages (at the outset of which Europe had a “traditional civilization,” meaning that it resembled all other previous and contemporary cultures). The movement then accelerated, and so it transformed its original environment through the Enlightenment and the eras that followed it. All through this there evolved a parallel and contrary trend. Its modern phase harks back to Rousseau. It continued with the “racialists” and scored with the Leninist version of Marxism and National Socialism as well as Fascism...

...When I came to Americain 1956, a theme of a US History course that I attended greatly impressed me. Keen to know what makes societies, especially the American one, successful the insights were stunning. Briefly, the great decisions were mostly the product of a compromise issuing from strength. It became possible because, through a rational discourse the better, most convincing argument could prevail. The losers who still had some input on the course chartered have not lost everything: nor were they “liquidated” to realize a utopia...

The ideas of the French Enlightenment embrace atheism and collectivism, and work to undermine Western cultural values such as individual freedom and sovereignty, and even rational argument and debate; what need do totalitarians have of such things? Islamism has this totalitarian view in common with european atheistic secularism. In fact, many of the ideas of the French Enlightenment have influenced Muslim leaders of the Islamism movement in the past century.

The difference between secularism that excludes God, and secularism that allows God, is the difference between the French Revolution and the American Revolution. One leads to totalitarianism, the other leads to freedom. I think the distinction is important to make.

Related links:

Scottish Enlightenment

Jean-Jacques Rousseau    French Revolution

Romanticism    Counter Enlightenment


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Surely there must be some resilience left in Europe to confront this evil? Islamic barbarism could in twenty years destroy a 1000 year legacy of European civilisation.

Islamic 'ethics' are totally incompatible with any form of civilised society.

For example, one major difference - perhaps THE most important difference - between the ethical standards of Muslims and those of the rest of humanity, is that Muslim ethics are dictated solely by Mohammed in the form of his instructions in the koran, and also by the example of his actions.

To Muslims, Mohammed is the 'perfect man' (al-insan al-kamil) and can do no wrong. Following his example is pleasing to Allah.

Everything else is 'man-made' and contrary to Allah's will. So to the Muslim, Mohammed's venomous, psychopathic, hate-filled rantings (koran) and his murderous, predatory, pedophilic example (hadith) are the sole arbiters of what is right and wrong.

This means that the Muslim must reject both the Golden Rule, and also the inner voice of his own conscience (both of which are so important in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Bahai etc).

If you convert to Islam you must stop thinking for yourself (one of its attractions for some people) . If you are born a Muslim, you are never allowed to start thinking for yourself. And, of course, you need never obey your conscience if Mohammed has given you an excuse to follow his own repulsive example.