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A Europe Without God or Mothers

A reader sends this speech transcript [1] published as an op-ed in the French daily Le Figaro, written by the Catholic philosopher Fabrice Hadjadj [2] before the recent Paris attacks. The link will take you to the French version of the piece, first published this past February, but recently reprinted by Le Figaro for obvious reasons. I’ve translated below parts of it, using my bad French and Google Translate. If you are willing and able to add to a more precise translation here, please do.

Hadjadj begins by citing an “open letter” a famous French polemicist wrote to jihadists in the wake of 9/11, sarcastically warning Al Qaeda to “fear the wrath of the consumer” who will fight to maintain his softness. Hadjadj says that is pretty much “the state of the French State” today, and that the “ideological blindness” of the French to the role of religion in political life is “preparing soon, if not civil war, at least the suicide of Europe.”

His point, if I understand, is that the progressive model that holds all political and social life eventually moves to secularism is a dead letter, but the secularists don’t grasp this. The philosopher points out that the Charlie Hebdo attackers were French-born and French-raised, and that French people who knew these men were shocked that anybody who had the relative material advantages of modern French life could turn to jihad. Hadjadj recalls the mayor of a small French city who expressed surprised that ten young people from his city had gone to wage jihad in Syria, despite the fact that the city had built a beautiful skate park in the middle of their neighborhood.

Hadjadj says, with bitter sarcasm:

What ingratitude! How do these young people have not had the feeling of having accomplished their deepest aspirations by working for Coca-Cola, skateboarding, playing in the local football club? How is it that their desire for heroism, contemplation and freedom he did not feel overwhelmed by the generous offer to choose between two frozen meals, watching an American TV series or abstaining in elections?

How have they thought their hopes and thoughts of love were not accomplished seeing all the progress on the economic crisis, gay marriage, and legalization of euthanasia? For it was precisely the debate that interested the French government just before the [Charlie Hebdo] attacks: the Republic was all stretched out to make this great human conquest, probably the last frontier, namely the right to be assisted in one’s suicide by executioners whose delicacy is attested by their medical degree …

Understand me: the Kouachi brothers, Coulibaly [the Charlie Hebdo attackers] were “fully integrated”, but integrated into nothing, to the denial of any historical and spiritual movement, which is why they eventually submitted to Islam, which was not only in response to this void but also in continuity with the void, with its global deracination, loss of the transmission of the family, the transformation of bodies into soulless super-instruments.

A young person is not only seeking reasons to live, but also, especially  — because we can’t live forever — a reason to give his life. Yet is there still in Europe reasons to give one’s life? Free speech? So be it! But what to we have to say that’s so important? What good news do we have to tell the world?

This question of whether Europe is still capable of carrying a transcendence that gives meaning to our action -this question, I say, because it is the most spiritual of all, is also the most carnal. It is not only to give one’s life; it is also to give life.

Curiously, or providentially, on 7 January, the first day of the attacks, the pope quoted an Oscar Romero homily showing the link between martyrdom and motherhood, between being willing to give one’s life and being ready to give life. It is an inescapable fact: our spiritual weakness affects demographics; like it or not, biological fertility is always a sign of hope lived (even if this hope is disordered, as in the nationalist and imperialist natalism).

Hadjadj goes on to say that Europe’s problem is that its natives are not having babies, and that this is inextricably related to religious belief. He says that France suffers from “religious and sexual asthenia,” and that the future cannot help but belong to the fertile.

 

 

The jihadists, he says, commit a grave strategic error” by their attacks. The “soft Islamization” of Europe is underway, and will only be halted by jolts like terrorist attacks awakening Europeans to the crisis upon them. If Europeans continue to deny the religious dimension of this crisis of civilization — and to deny that terrorist attacks by Muslim fanatics are driven by religion — then the soft Islamization will continue. More:

 

In any case, we must discard the vanity of believing that Islamist movements are pre-Enlightenment movements driven by barbarians who will moderate as soon as they discover the splendors of consumerism. In truth, they are post-Enlightenment movements. They know the humanist utopias that had substituted for religious faith have collapsed. One has reason to wonder if Islam is not in a dialectical relationship with a techno-liberal Europe that rejects its Greco-Latin roots and its Jewish and Christian wings, and that cannot live too long without God or mothers. Like a spoiled child, this Europe cannot return to its Mother Church, so she may finally agree to indulge in easy monotheism, where the relation to wealth is played down, where sexual morality is looser, where hi-tech postmodernity builds radiant cities like Qatar. God + capitalism + the companions of the harem + computer mouse — why would this not be the final compromise, the real end of the story?
One thing seems certain: what is good about the Enlightenment cannot subsist without the Light of the ages. But do we recognize that this is the Light of the Word made flesh, the God made man, that is to say, a deity who does not crush the human but rather assumes it in its freedom and in its weakness?

Hadjadj concludes his speech to his audience in Rome like this:

That is the question I put to you at last. You are Romans, but do you have strong reasons that Saint Peter’s will not suffer the same fate as the Hagia Sophia? You are Italian, but are you able to fight for the Divine Comedy, or are you ashamed that in Inferno, Canto 28, Dante dares to put Mohammed in hell? Finally, we are Europeans, but are we proud of our flag with its twelve stars? Do we remember even the meaning of these twelve stars, which refer to the Apocalypse of St. John and the faith of Schuman and De Gasperi?

The time is for comfort is over. We must respond, or we are dead. For what Europe are we willing to give our lives?

Read the whole thing, en français [1].

124 Comments (Open | Close)

124 Comments To "A Europe Without God or Mothers"

#1 Comment By JDinsSR On November 29, 2015 @ 7:26 pm

@Carlo
“actually JDinsSR’s argument was precisely that since WW1 involved “Christian nations” somehow “Christianity” led to Hitlerism and Stalinism. But if you have a more convincing exegesis of what he/wrote I’ll be happy to hear it.”

Nope.

Didn’t say that.

Simply responded to your statement re: secularization of Europe beginning with WWII that we might be able to back the timeline up a bit to WWI and the impact that conflict had upon European culture and society.

I did note that the nations involved in WWI were largely Christian (since the topic is entitled “A Europe Without God”), so maybe whether Europe is Christian or not does not tell us as much as some might think about quality of life, number of violent deaths from artillery, extermination of millions of lives, etc.

But I didn’t say Christianity lead to Hitler and Stalin, because that would be . . . [searching] . . . stupid.

#2 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On November 29, 2015 @ 8:21 pm

@heartright, there’s a statistical concept called regression to the mean which holds that it is hard for a group to deviate from the norm in the long run. So a group with greater fertility would tend to experience a drag which would cause them to become more like the average. Meanwhile the reverse phenomena would happen to the lagging group.

Now I know this doesn’t always hold because extinction of populations does occur. But it happens often enough that it is considered the normal course of affairs.

#3 Comment By Carlo On November 29, 2015 @ 9:52 pm

JDinSR:

thanks for the clarification. I still don’t see your point, to be honest, but never mind.

#4 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 29, 2015 @ 10:39 pm

Masons are perfectly respectable here…

Largely because this nation and its governing institutions were founded and designed by Masons.

Siarlys:

sorry, I always turn the i in your name into a y. The mysteries of English spelling: why two different symbols for the exact same sound?

Welsh, not English. You are forgiven for the insult to my ancestors, especially since others among my ancestors were English. The Si is pronounced like Sh in English: sh. The y is more like an euh sound, if that conveys anything.

And on another note, while you may have been quoting Jesus, it is not so clear that Jesus said this was the most tremendous question any human being has ever been asked. Maybe he intended it to be a simple pop quiz, or even asked it out of genuine perplexity. ITs not easy to be fully man and comprehend what it means to be fully God (or so I would infer).

#5 Comment By Chris Travers On November 30, 2015 @ 1:52 am

Fascinating post. I think there is a connection to religion but it is not what Churches think. We are told that religion creates good people. I think this is so much wishful thinking and that people elevate religions, not the other way around.

Rather, churches, mosques, temples, etc. are organs of community. It is only when we destroy our communities that we can believe they no longer matter.

Religious transformations in history have always been political. In Northern Europe, the Catholic Church entered promising to help kings consolidate their rules and expand their kingdoms. Greater scalability of the state, based to some extent on the Roman experience, was the name of the game.

When these kings had then grown in power sufficiently, they then used the writings and followers of Martin Luther to justify taking over the social functions of the Church, and now the secularists want to finish the job.

This is innately tied to the development of Capitalism in Europe, and it is a downward slide. And our form of capitalism is one where the wealthy seek to destroy family, community, and anything else which stands in their way.

But there is another aspect to this as well, namely that of feminism. Capitalism also spread the breadwinner model which reduced the power of women, but women gained something in return namely prestige (“we are wealthy enough I don’t have to work”). Again this happened again when suggesting that women should be valued for career ambitions, not social roles, and thus again sold prestige, but at the expense of power.

The roots of the current crisis, including the religions crisis, are economic and represent the triumph of money and the state over family and community.

#6 Comment By heartright On November 30, 2015 @ 4:54 am

@ Secular Misanthropist:

“So a group with greater fertility would tend to experience a drag which would cause them to become more like the average. Meanwhile the reverse phenomena would happen to the lagging group.”

And why should that happen when group A consistently values fertility more than group B?

#7 Comment By JonF On November 30, 2015 @ 6:01 am

Giuseppe point about masons makes more sense if seen in the narrow context of the failure of Throne-and Altar-Catholicism: by 1914 that was deciding out of fashion (although an Orthodox version survived in Russia). However the governments of the era should not be labeled “anti-Christian” because they did not adhere to an early 19th century political strain of Christianity.

#8 Comment By Rob G On November 30, 2015 @ 7:41 am

“it is not so clear that Jesus said this was the most tremendous question any human being has ever been asked.”

Recall that Jesus asked a similar question to the Pharisees: “What think ye of the Christ? Whose son is he?”

#9 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On November 30, 2015 @ 8:27 am

TR and Siarlys

Re: masons

What I understand from dear friends in the US who are masons is that American freemasonry is little more than a social club and a charitable association. I mean, there are freemasonry bumper stickers and T-shirts, something unthinkable in Europe.

On the other hand, for the Catholic Church being a freemason entails ipso facto excommunication, according to canon 1374 and as confirmed by the [3] of 1983.

The two main distinction usually being made, which are not necessarily endorsed by the Catholic Church, are between simple members and initiates, as only the latter have to fully subscribe to the masonic theology, which is basically a sort of gnostic heresy, and between the Anglo-American freemasonry, which is considered to be more conservative and not anti-clerical, and the Latin (French, Italian and South American) freemasonry, which is considered to be revolutionary-utopianist and actively plotting for the destruction of the Church.

[NFR: My father was a Freemason, like many older Protestants in the South. There are some Masons of my generation, but it doesn’t seem to be as popular. He tried to interest me in it when I was in college, but it didn’t work. I was not particularly religious at the time, but I knew enough history and theology to know that Freemasonry was a Deistic movement from the Enlightenment, and not something I could ever affirm. My dad insisted that it was “Christian,” because, I suppose, he could not conceive of a discussion of God outside of Christianity. By his request, my father’s funeral service was not in the church (alas!), but a Masonic graveside service. His Freemasonry meant a lot to him. It was interesting for me to observe. It was highly Deistic and ritualized, and contained a lot of metaphysical phraseology. It seemed to me that the Protestant men who had cast ritual and mystery out of their Sunday worship had found a way to sneak it in through the back door. — RD]

#10 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On November 30, 2015 @ 10:56 am

@heartright, because attitudes shift over time. Compare the post WWII birthrate among Europeans to their descendants today. Looking in a rear view mirror is seldom a good way to predict the future.

But let’s check back on Rod’s blog in 50 years on the comparative fertility rates in Europe to see who was correct.

#11 Comment By Charley On November 30, 2015 @ 11:31 am

Having France convert back to “Catholicism” will not suddenly raise the number of children that modern French women want or have. Birth control has made women’s lives richer and more meaningful than just having a broad of children to raise. As women become more educated their horizons, power and opportunity expand and there is no going back to the dark ages.

#12 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On November 30, 2015 @ 11:56 am

JonF says:

Giuseppe point about masons makes more sense if seen in the narrow context of the failure of Throne-and Altar-Catholicism: by 1914 that was deciding out of fashion (although an Orthodox version survived in Russia). However the governments of the era should not be labeled “anti-Christian” because they did not adhere to an early 19th century political strain of Christianity.

JonF,
You put it too mildly. The political settlement of Europe in 1814 was the stage for the nationalist revolutions of XIX century. Those revolutions were consistently nationalist and anti-Catholic. In Continental Europe the role of secret organizations, especially of freemasonry, was enhanced by the repression from incumbent régimes, which forced underground operations if any chance of success was to be hoped for.
Given the Catholic Church’s support for the statu quo, the contrast betweeen the new governments emerging from the nationalist revolution and the Church couldn’t be sharper.
France’s Second Empire was a staunch supporter of the Church and of the Papal States, but after Napoleon III defeat at Sédan against the Germans, France’s Third Republic lined up with the general continental anticlerical stance.
In Italy, the continuing dominance of liberal and freemason in the government was determined by the Non Expedit decree of 1868, which forbade Catholics to actively take part to the national political life as a protest to the aggressive policy of the Kingdom of Italy against the Papal States. The result was a Parliament dominated by liberal-freemasons.
In France, the situation was more blurred, but the dominance of Socialists and Republicanists implied, during the 3rd Republic, a general anti-Catholic tendency. The “loi de laïcité” of 1905, although it removed any funding from the State to the Catholic Church, it also broke any vestige of formal State control on the Church. However, it also tried to prevent any influence on the Papacy on the French clergy, so reinforcing Gallicanism, causing, in 1904, the breaking of diplomatic relations between France and the Vatican.
Therefore, I think that, broadly speaking, the anti-Christian label (or better, anti-Catholic) is appropriate.

#13 Comment By grumpy realist On November 30, 2015 @ 2:27 pm

I think the only way people would go back to having large families is if a) we had a re-enaction of the Black Death, or b) we went back to a rural, agricultural economy.

As long as you can expect most of your kids to live to adulthood and they are a total drain on your resources, you aren’t going to have more than replacement number–if that.

And frankly, I fail to understand this incessant squawking about How We Need To Breed More. The only reason we’ve been able to feed what we have is the so-called Green Revolution, and now we’re discovering that all that hybrid corn and wheat may not be that great for our health. We might be able to have much healthier diets and live much lighter on the land if the population of the Earth were 1 billion people and we lived off the older grains such as emmer which aren’t as productive.

#14 Comment By M. F. Bonner On November 30, 2015 @ 2:41 pm

“In 1914
– France’s III Republic had been waging a 40-years long war against the Church, culminating in the 1905 “loi the laïcité”
– Britain was governed by a Liberal-Labour cabinet which was infected by fabianist and positivist views
– Germany was deeply affected by the outcomes of Kulturkampf and its anti-Catholicism
– The Hapsburg Empire was Catholic, but with a strong pan-Germanist party on one side, pushing to side with Germany, and with Serbs, Bohemian, Moravian, Hungarian and Polish nationalists – all heirs of the masonic liberal tradition of the XIX century’s nationalist movement, all more or less secretively hoping that a war would allow them to fulfill their nationalist goals.
– In Italy, as you said, the liberal government was distinctively masonic and anti-Catholic, but also a great part of Socialits, including Mussolini, like many of his comrades across Europe and Russia, pushed for war, hoping that pulling together a large number of armed proletarians would have paved the way to the Socialist revolution. They eventually were proven right.”

Perhaps Moralistic Therapeutic Deism has much deeper historic roots than I thought. This would seem to make it a faith tradition going back at least 100 years.

#15 Comment By heartright On November 30, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

@heartright, because attitudes shift over time. Compare the post WWII birthrate among Europeans to their descendants today.

@ MH:
since you mention it, the differential between secular europeans and the actively religious ones persisted too over that period of time. ( I mean, I do hear the seculars around here bitching about the religious birdhatchers ).

So, why precisely should the differential change direction in the future? I mean, unless you are saying that Muslims will cease to be Muslims…

#16 Comment By heartright On November 30, 2015 @ 4:13 pm

grumpy realist says:
November 30, 2015 at 2:27 pm

“And frankly, I fail to understand this incessant squawking about How We Need To Breed More.”
Because breeding is a competitive sport, and the winners get to push the losers into the fossile record.
Darwinism 101.

For us meiotic types, breeding is the point of existence, and NOT individual wellbeing. The purpose of a zygote ( you and me, and fruitflies too, and most plants, I guess. ) is to produce succesful gametes. And not life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness – a self-evident point, unless you assume that mosses are capable of happiness.

#17 Comment By panda On November 30, 2015 @ 4:20 pm

“You put it too mildly. The political settlement of Europe in 1814 was the stage for the nationalist revolutions of XIX century. Those revolutions were consistently nationalist and anti-Catholic”

Not necessarily so: take the Irish, and the Poles, and the various Southern Slavs, for an example.

#18 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 30, 2015 @ 10:00 pm

What I understand from dear friends in the US who are masons is that American freemasonry is little more than a social club and a charitable association. I mean, there are freemasonry bumper stickers and T-shirts, something unthinkable in Europe.

On might call it Moral Therapeutic Masonry. Once the foundations of society had been established in accordance with masonic principles, it was of course unnecessary that the lodges function in secret. Indeed they did lose a good deal of their serious function and become more of a social club with secret rituals for the fun of it.

One doesn’t have to hide in the shadows as persecuted minority when one’s lodge brothers are pillars of the community and a majority of the national legislature.

There is, however, a story of a man of African descent who was about to be lynched in a court house square, I believe in Arkansas, who moaned repeatedly “Is there no help for the widow’s son”? While making masonic hand signals. One of the two men designated to perform the execution told the other “We can’t do this. He’s a Mason.” The other dismissed the concern, “He’s only a n****r Mason.” Which shows how badly the lodges had degenerated.

There is, on the other hand, Robert A. Heinlein’s vision that the Masonic lodge would be the core of the Free United States Army that fought to overthrow the rule of the Prophet Incarnate, a dynasty established in Mississippi camp meetings by the Rev. Nehemiah Scudder. Hard times can restore a sense of purpose and a seriousness of discipline necessary to that purpose.

As to the political revolutions of Europe being anti-Catholic, they were in nations where the ancien regime was in bed with the Roman hierarchy, and vice versa. In nations where Roman Catholic faith was the religion of the oppressed peasantry, and derided by the affluent, educated and powerful, revolutions took on a distinct Catholic flavor for obvious reasons.

#19 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On November 30, 2015 @ 11:26 pm

@heartright, over two generations all sorts of things are possible. The Muslims becoming more secular, governments instituting taxes instead of subsidies for large familes to dissuade them or Christians increasing birthrates as a response. These sort of things are difficult to predict.

Note that two generations would only reach at most 16% or so. To hit the Muslim majority you are taking even longer timescales where uncertainty only increases.

#20 Comment By Randy McDonald On December 1, 2015 @ 8:43 am

Demographic alarmism has been debunked, repeatedly. Among other things, Muslims do not have substantially larger families than Christians. (In the specific case of France, Christians and Muslims have larger families than the European average.)

What will happen if the worst are full of passion? Passion will be discredited.

#21 Comment By Randy McDonald On December 1, 2015 @ 8:56 am

Joan:

“A hundred years ago, our middle-class white grandparents were being warned against “the dregs of Europe,” the desperately poor Irish and Italians and Eastern Europeans. Now we’ve got a Frenchman warning Italians about desperately poor Muslims.”

A Frenchman of non-Christian immigrant background, no less.

#22 Comment By Rob G On December 1, 2015 @ 9:48 am

“Perhaps Moralistic Therapeutic Deism has much deeper historic roots than I thought. This would seem to make it a faith tradition going back at least 100 years.”

Yep. Read up on pre WWI “progressive” Christianity and it sounds very similar. There are never really any new heresies; old ones just get rehashed.

#23 Comment By heartright On December 1, 2015 @ 3:06 pm

@MH:

“These sort of things are difficult to predict.”
And despite your observation that these things are difficult to predict, you make the assumption that they will swing the way you prefer.

Ma’m, that reminds me waaaay too much of how Climate Change Denialists do their wishful thinking.

“governments instituting taxes instead of subsidies for large familes to dissuade them. ”
That sounds entirely too much like some kind extremist-right fantasy.

#24 Comment By EJ On December 19, 2015 @ 1:31 am

“I’ve pointed out on previous Eurabia threads that even the most optimistic growth rates for Islam only project a growth to 8% of European population by 2030. If you assume another doubling in a subsequent generation it will be less than 16% by 2050.”
Oh, I don’t believe Europe would become Muslim. But compared to the Muslim population on a global scale? Not to mention the huge number of Muslim refugees coming to Europe. I think I should remind people here that Christianity did not displace Roman paganism overnight. Also, I doubt they would take over Europe but I’m pretty sure that’s not their plan at all. Much like the Mujahideen in Afghanistan during the 1980s and the Iraqi insurgency happening after the US invaded, they don’t have to beat their enemies outright to claim victory. They don’t have to win, all they need is not to lose. That’s Guerrilla Warfare 101 and they’re waging it quite well.

“Given that Muslim birthrates have been falling in recent years this trend seems unlikely to continue to me and the numbers will be less than that.”

Given that secular European birthrates aren’t faring so well either, I also continue to doubt that secularism will continue to dominate Europe in the future. If both Muslims and secularists are engaged in a demographic war of attrition, then the side with better resources will win out in the end. Suppose there are 5000 Muslims and 1000 secularists and every year 50 from both groups die of natural causes, who do you think will come out victorious in the end? Regarding fertility rates, people keep citing that more religious countries like Poland have lower birth rates while secular countries like France and Scandinavia have higher (albeit below replacement rate level) fertility rates should take note that countries like Poland tend to be less accommodating to immigrants while countries like France are. Let’s not forget that fertility rates are averages. Larger numbers of children from minorities are enough to boost the rate up. Speaking of France, despite their secularism, I notice they have a lot of Catholic traditionalists as well as a growing Evangelical community.
Lastly, I still remain unconvinced that secularism doesn’t affect fertility rates, considering how those who are religious often tend to have a lot more children, regardless of other factors such as race, class or educational background. Besides, who do you think is more likely to have a family of 10 kids? A pious Islamist or a secularist?

The way I see this going down is that Islamists and secularists will continue to battle this out until both are exhausted. When this happen, Christianity will come back and just push the two exhausted combatants to the ground and claim Europe for itself. My fear, however, is that by the time both the Islamists and the secularists are done fighting, there won’t be much of Europe left. Hopefully, Catholicism and the other forms of Christianity will help rebuild Europe and make sure that something like that never happens again. The thing I like about Christianity is that it’s more global than those two. One is mostly concentrated in North Africa and the Middle East, while the other is mostly concentrated in Western and Northern Europe.