Will America suffer the same fate as Europe and the rise of what Karen Armstrong calls “secular fundamentalism”? We seem to be headed in similar direction with the secularization of our schools and courts. Christianity in America, like Christianity in Europe, is under attack. We see it every day. Judges are being scrutinized for their religious beliefs, especially on abortion and homosexuality, and organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center are taking aim at Christian groups like American Vision, Focus on the Family, and Coral Ridge Ministries.[1] A similar thing happened to Italy’s nominee to the European Union’s executive commission. He was attacked by EU parliamentarians and the press because of his view that homosexuality was a sin. The attacks were so vicious that he had to step down.

While 59 percent of Americans say that religion is very important in their lives, only 11 percent of the French, 21 percent of Germans, and 33 percent of Britons do, according to the Pew Research Center.

What happened to the once-Christian Europe? George Weigel, a theologian and senior fellow of the Ethics and Policy Center in Washington, D.C., says that the culprit “is the atheistic humanism that took shape in the 19th century,”[2] and there was a lot of it. Whether in the form of Auguste Comte’s positivism (empirical science is the only reliable worldview), Charles Darwin’s naturalism (nature is all there is), or Karl Marx’s materialism (the spiritual world is an illusion), it attempted “to exclude transcendent reference points from cultural, social, and political life,” Weigel contends. “In specific, it reversed the view that the Hebrew and Christian God was the source of human freedom and dignity and proposed that this God was the obstacle to both.”

What effect are these developments having on Europe today, and are we next? The adoption of these alien worldviews struck at the heart of moral reason “in a culture that had given the world the very concept of moral reason.” Two world wars were an indictment of humanism and materialism, but instead of rejecting the materialistic worldviews that justified the wars, the people adopted a “hyperindividualism” which has led to “a lack of confidence in the future.” When you no longer believe in the future, you tend to discount the past (rejection of Europe’s Christian civilization), deny the future, and live for the present, both philosophically and practically.

During the European heat wave of 2003, the French continued their summer vacations. If a family member had died, they remained unburied and warehoused in refrigerated lockers which were soon overflowing. In Germany, there are no death notices in the newspapers, no church funeral ceremonies, no secular memorial service— “as though,” Richard Neuhaus has observed, “The deceased did not exist.” A Swedish company advertises a service in which cremation is replaced with human composting, the dead being immersed and frozen in liquid nitrogen before being smashed in small pieces by ultrasound waves and then freeze-dried and used for fertilizer.

Europe is having what demographics expert Ben Wattenberg calls a “birth dearth” where the average fertility rate among European women is 1.4, while the minimum replacement rate is 2.1. Similar demographic statistics can found in Japan. Europe has another related problem—a competing worldview that it has no inherent ability to fight—Islam. The Muslim population in France could grow from being 5 percent of France’s 60 million population to a majority in 25 years. Fouad Ajami, director of the Middle East Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University, told the [Harvard Political Review] that much of the Muslim population of France, for example, is “shut up in these ghettos, secluded and kept apart from French society. They have a subculture of their own, a slang of their own, a language of their own. And the French have no answer to them.” For many nationals whose self-conceptions rest on shared cultural values and assumptions, the existence of this distinct, alien, highly-religious community is perceived as a serious threat to national unity.

Christianity has been the only religion able to compete with Islam, but Europe today is experiencing the spread of “Christophobia” that “is tied to a Europe-wide spiritual malaise that is pushing the Continent toward broad cultural and economic decline.” You can’t beat something with nothing. If nothing changes, on birth rates alone, Europe will be Muslim in 30 years.

Individualism can not beat a corporate worldview. Christianity is corporate: one body but with many members. “I believe in the holy Catholic (universal) church.” The European worldview exalts the individual in what Francis Schaeffer described as an effort to pursue “personal peace and affluence.” Children become an inconvenience in pursuit of the good life. This happens because each person believes he or she is a “godlet” “with as much authority to set standards as any other godlet or combination of godlets.”[3] With God out of the picture, everything is permissible.

“A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand” has become “Individuals divided against themselves will not stand.” Politics alone cannot supply corporate cohesion except by force. We’ve seen this in the latest rejection of the European Union in France and the Netherlands. What becomes of this is anyone’s guess. There are elements of reform taking place among younger Europeans, especially in the area of a more market-oriented economy, but at the moment, Europe is in trouble, and America is not far behind.


[1] http://www.americanvision.com/articlearchive/06-24-05.asp
[2] Jay Tolson, “European, Not Christian,” U.S. News & World Report (May 30, 2005), 52. [3] Phillip Johnson, “Nihilism and the End of Law”: www.apologetics.org/articles/nihilism.html