Towards A Good Samaritan World

Tuesday, November 09, 2004


"Blair has signed us up to the sharia of Euro-enthusiasts," complains a writer in the Telegraph.

The Treaty of Rome, largely conceived by three Catholics – De Gasperi, Schuman and Adenauer – was signed at the heart of Western Christian civilisation in 1957. It was intended to mend and advance that civilisation. Yesterday, the leaders of EU member states met, again in Rome, to sign the new European Constitution, from which all mention of God has been excluded. Is active religious belief a disqualification from taking part in the government of modern Europe?

My anger rose further at the astonishing virulence of an article by Matthew Parris in The Times last week. Parris is a brilliant writer and usually a thoughtful, humane man, but here he was beside himself. "Kick him out," he yelled, in reference to Mr Buttiglione, and, "I say: enough of tolerance." He said that Mr Buttiglione had "indeed been the victim of anti-Christian discrimination, and that such discrimination is now in order". Parris wanted people with "anti-modern beliefs" excluded from public positions unless they agreed not to act on such beliefs.

I worry about Europe. This phenomenon is not foreign to Americans, of course; we, too, have elites who feel religion should be rigorously excluded from the public square, as a prelude to its ultimate extinction. Why let a belief system you think is absurd continue to exist, after all? Christians have an answer to that-- faith must be voluntary-- but atheists don't. Secularized culture and democratic freedom, sad to say, do not have much of a history together. The first atheist state was the Soviet Union. As Europe abandoned traditional faith in the late 19th century, it prepared for an orgy of communist and fascist totalitarianism. While I don't think that will happen to Europe this time, it's worth considering: could an election like the one that just took place here, occur in Europe? Would the people be permitted to overturned the preferences of the secular academic, cultural, journalistic and bureaucratic elite? I don't think so.


  • Preposterous and insulting.

    What do you mean, Atheists don't have an answer to "Why let a belief system you think is absurd continue to exist..."? It seems clear that one need not be a theist to support the right to have differing opinions. As for "secularized culture," the very term implies something forced and invasive - something that can only happen under authoritarian regimes. Secular states, on the other hand, are very much associated with democratic freedom. The US Constitution does not and never has mentioned the word "God," so I don't see how the failure to include the word in the European Constitution somehow qualifies as some sort of awful anti-Christian discrimination. Contra the "secular elites are oppressing the Christian masses" meme sit facts like the addition (owing largely to the lobbying of the Knights of Columbus) of the word "God" to both the Pledge of Allegiance and the official US motto in the 1950s as a blow against "communism" - despite the fact that the large scientific corps frantically maintaining US miliary parity failed to believe in God at least half the time.

    As for the "people" of Europe overturning an elite-imposed cultural secularism, one should note that the level of belief in Europe is much lower at the same time as many states there maintain official churches. As general belief has declined rapidly in the last 3-4 decades, the religious sinecures and offices have come under attack by a populace that no longer believes they are relevant. I'm admittedly not sure I'm comfortable with Parris' treatment of Mr Buttiglione, but neither am I sure it was inappropriate. I'm just not familiar enough with the post to have a solid opinion. I will say, however, that western European popular opinion is assuredly closer to Mr Parris' side than Mr Buttiglione's.

    The narrative in which Christians are somehow being put at a disadvantage (outside of anecdotes) in the modern America by secular elites is so absurd from my perspective that it beggars the mind. For example, 37% of Americans would refuse to vote for a gay president, but 48% would be unwilling to support an atheist. All sorts of well-meaning people feel free to tell me that since I’m an atheist, I have no morals. That I was allowed to join the military frequently astonishes those around me. When I was filling out the forms for my military ID tags, I was told I could not have “none” or “atheist” printed in the customary religion slot - I would only be “no-rel-pref.” I am by no means the only enlisted atheist I know who has encountered that particular circumstance. I was not allowed into the Boy Scouts because I was an atheist. I could go on and on with the statistics and anecdotes, but I think I’ve made my point.

    That’s not to say that I feel particularly disadvantaged by my atheism. I mean, I’m an educated, employed heterosexual caucasian male from a wealthy family who doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, doesn’t do any other drugs and is more or less celibate. I personally have little to fear from even the most arch-conservative Christian society. Well, I wouldn’t have been born if my mother hadn’t been able to abort a baby that would have become my brother’s sibling instead of me, but that’s water well under the bridge. However, my brother would like to adopt children with his partner some day, I hope to have children free of preconceived notions about how they must be to fit their gender, I’d like my friends to be able to conduct their sexual lives in safe ways they see fit, and I’d like to be able to honor my grandfather’s fervent and long-standing demand that should he ever become mentally incapacitated that we not keep him alive artificially. None of these actions require anything of Christians, yet it seems a great number of said Christians (as well as Muslims, etc) feel the need to impose laws against them. Frustrating the desire to impose theistic moral dictates on non-theists does not strike me as “oppressing” the theist. Taking “God” back out of the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t seem like elitist domination.

    By Blogger Nato, at 8:28 PM  

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