Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

The Suicide Of Europe

The home of Western civilization is on the brink -- but the US is on the same downward slide

British journalist and public intellectual Douglas Murray — who, for the record, is a) conservative, b) atheist, and c) openly gay — says that Europe is well on its way to civilizational suicide. Excerpts:

Europe is committing suicide. Or at least its leaders have decided to commit suicide. Whether the European people choose to go along with this is, naturally, another matter. When I say that Europe is in the process of killing itself, I do not mean that the burden of European Commission regulation has become overbearing or that the European Convention on Human Rights has not done enough to satisfy the demands of a particular community.

I mean that the civilisation we know as Europe is in the process of committing suicide and that neither Britain nor any other western European country can avoid that fate, because we all appear to suffer from the same symptoms and maladies.

As a result, by the end of the lifespans of most people currently alive, Europe will not be Europe and the peoples of Europe will have lost the only place in the world we had to call home.

Europe today has little desire to reproduce itself, fight for itself or even take its own side in an argument. Those in power seem persuaded that it would not matter if the people and culture of Europe were lost to the world.

Murray says that the causes for this are many, but he singles out two massive events that happened simultaneously: the world decided to migrate to Europe at the same time that Europeans lost faith in themselves and their civilization. More:

While generally agreeing that it is possible for an individual to absorb a particular culture (given the right degree of enthusiasm both from the individual and the culture) whatever their skin colour, we know that we Europeans cannot become whatever we like. We cannot become Indian or Chinese, for instance. And yet we are expected to believe that anyone in the world can move to Europe and become European.

If being “European” is not about race, then it is even more imperative that it is about “values”. This is what makes the question “What are European values?” so important. Yet this is another debate about which we are wholly confused.

Are we, for instance, Christian? In the 2000s this debate had a focal point in the row over the wording of the new EU constitution and the absence of any mention of the continent’s Christian heritage. The debate not only divided Europe geographically and politically, it also pointed to a glaring aspiration.

For religion had not only retreated in western Europe. In its wake there arose a desire to demonstrate that in the 21st century Europe had a self-supporting structure of rights, laws and institutions that could exist even without the source that had arguably given them life.

In the place of religion came the ever-inflating language of “human rights” (itself a concept of Christian origin). We left unresolved the question of whether or not our acquired rights were reliant on beliefs that the continent had ceased to hold, or whether they existed of their own accord. This was, at the very least, an extremely big question to have left unresolved while vast new populations were being expected to “integrate”.


Even now Europe’s leaders talk of an invigorated effort to incorporate the millions of new arrivals. These efforts too will fail. If Europe is going to become a home for the world, it must search for a definition of itself that is wide enough to encompass the world. This means that in the period before this aspiration collapses our values become so wide as to become meaninglessly shallow.

So whereas European identity in the past could be attributed to highly specific, not to mention philosophically and historically deep foundations (the rule of law, the ethics derived from the continent’s history and philosophy), today the ethics and beliefs of Europe — indeed the identity and ideology of Europe — have become about “respect”, “tolerance” and (most self-abnegating of all) “diversity”.

Such shallow self-definitions may get us through a few more years, but they have no chance at all of being able to call on the deeper loyalties that societies must be able to reach if they are going to survive for long.

This is just one reason why it is likely that our European culture, which has lasted all these centuries and shared with the world such heights of human achievement, will not survive.

Read the whole thing. Murray’s book The Strange Death of Europe will be published in the UK this week; American readers, click here to pre-order it on Kindle.

I can better understand why publishers in France, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia will be coming out next year with translations of The Benedict Option. This really and truly is “Fall Of Rome” stuff for them, though one key difference is that when the Empire in the West fell in 476, the Church was still strong, if not yet widespread in the West. Now Europe has lived through Christianity, and has largely discarded it. By accepting the flood of Islamic refugees, Europeans are creating a future in which Christianity will struggle to exist at all. Ask the Christians of territories conquered in the past by Islam how easy it is to live as believers in those lands.

Murray’s point, though, is that the European elites (and, it seems to me, the masses) don’t care. They consider themselves virtuous in sending Christianity into history’s dustbin. What they don’t comprehend is that in so doing, they are cutting their own national throats as people who presumably would like to preserve liberal democracy. You cannot march confidently and coherently into the future feeding yourself on the thin gruel of “diversity”.

European Christians are going to have to develop a mode of living that gives them a better chance at surviving this Dark Age. This much is very clear. What is not clear at all to many Americans is that we are on the same path, though farther back, with more time to prepare.

To restate, in simplest terms, an argument familiar to reader of The Benedict Option:

  1. The West, including the United States, has entered a post-Christian era. This means not that Christianity has ceased to exist — an absurd claim — but that Christianity is no longer at the center of our cultural definition and self-understanding, and its hold on the collective imagination is waning.
  2. Evidence of this can be found in the dramatic, and historic, falling-away of younger generations from the Christian faith. Indeed, leading sociologists of religion, examining statistical trends over the past two decades, now say that the US is on the same downward trajectory pioneered by Europe. 
  3. Among those who still claim allegiance to the Christian faith, in its various manifestations, awareness of fundamental Christian teachings is virtually nil.  They do not know what it means to be a Christian, and are drifting far out to see, though unaware of this.
  4. There are no social forces now present capable of stopping the cultural momentum towards full secularization — which, to put it another way, is apostasy. While believing Christians have to fight as hard as we can against these forces, it is more important for us to build up the internal resilience, within our families, churches, and institutions, that will allow us to endure post-Christian America with our faith intact.
  5. The lack of awareness of our predicament and its nature is the chief obstacle among Christians to preparing for it. Many Christians cannot fathom the magnitude of the change now upon us.

American Christians do not face an emergency nearly as acute as our European brothers and sisters. The churches here are healthier, and we do not face the existential threat of immigration from an alien and historically hostile people. But don’t lie to yourself: the threat we face is on the same spectrum. European Christianity, and indeed Western civilization, in Europe is threatened both by outside pressure and internal weakness. American Christianity is primarily threatened by internal weakness. But the threat exists, and those Christians who think that there is a political solution to this are whistling past the graveyard.

Civilizations do not lay down and die peacefully. Again: prepare.