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SCIENTISTS SEEK EXPLANATION FOR PARIS HILTON

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    Over two thousand of the world s leading scientists converged on Oslo, Norway to attend a conference devoted to one of modern science s most baffling
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2005
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      Over two thousand of the world's leading scientists
      converged on Oslo, Norway to attend a conference
      devoted to one of modern science's most baffling
      phenomena, the continuing popularity of hotel heiress
      Paris Hilton.

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      ***Politics Without God--Europe's Secular Crisis***

      The continent of Europe is now experiencing a civilizational
      crisis. Once the cradle of Western civilization, Europe is
      transforming itself into a hyper-modern culture of nearly
      undiluted secularism. Once constituted by a sense of
      Christian identity, Europe is now attempting a vast
      experiment in secularism, and this experiment shows
      no signs of ending anytime soon.

      George Weigel has been watching these developments
      closely. Weigel is a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public
      Policy Center [EPPC] in Washington, D.C., and is one
      of the nation's most influential public intellectuals. Well
      known for his massive biography of Pope John Paul II,
      Weigel is a Roman Catholic theologian who knows
      secularism when he sees it--and understands what
      inevitably follows when a civilization rejects the very
      Christian worldview on which it was established.

      In The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America,
      and Politics Without God, Weigel presents a magisterial
      analysis of Europe's current plight. The title of the book
      directs attention to the central architectural metaphor of
      his thesis--the contrast between La Grande Arche de la
      Defense and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. The Grand
      Arch was built under the direction of the late French
      president Francois Mitterand and was designed by
      modernist architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen.
      The Grand Arch stands far west of the Arc de Triomphe,
      and is massive by any comparison, standing almost 40
      stories tall and wider than a football field. Constructed
      of glass and white Carrara marble, the Grand Arch is
      a parable of postmodernism, for its grand scale points
      to no particular meaning.

      Weigel's interest in the arch was seasoned by an
      architectural guidebook that claimed that the entire
      Cathedral of Notre-Dame would fit within the space
      of the Great Arch--including the cathedral's towers
      and spire.

      Considering the two architectural marvels--the cube
      and the cathedral--Weigel saw a metaphor for the
      contrast between secular and Christian Europe.
      "All of which raised some questions in my mind,
      as I walked along the terrace admiring one of the
      world's great cityscapes," Weigel remembers.
      "Which culture, I wondered, would better protect
      human rights? Which culture would more firmly
      secure the moral foundations of democracy?
      The culture that built this stunning, rational, angular,
      geometrically precise but essentially featureless cube?
      Or the culture that produced the vaulting and bosses,
      the gargoyles and flying buttresses, the nooks and
      crannies, the asymmetries and holy 'unsaneness'
      of Notre-Dame and the other great Gothic cathedrals
      of Europe?"

      Another contrast also framed Weigel's attention--the divergence of America
      and Europe in the new century. "In the first years of the twenty-first
      century, and in a moment in history when the democratic ideal had energized
      much of the world, Americans suddenly seemed to be approaching a parting of
      the ways with many of our European friends in understanding the democratic
      project--its sources, its possibilities, and the threats to it."

      The European project is in trouble, Weigel asserts. The evidence is now
      unassailable. For some years, Europe has experienced a fall in births that
      now portends a net decrease in population. At the same time, the countries
      of Western Europe have become increasingly populated by Islamic immigrants,
      who are not only moving into Western Europe in large numbers, but are
      reproducing at rates far above the native population. Observers from many
      disciplines now project an Islamic future for Europe. Last week's referendum
      in France, in which French citizens overwhelmingly rejected the proposed
      constitution for the European Union, only serves to complicate the picture.
      That very document had been the focus of controversy in recent months as the
      drafting committee had chosen to make no reference at all to the Christian
      sources of European civilization.

      Weigel's diagnosis of the European problem is clear and profound. He argues
      that Europe's ambition to build a democratic project on a completely secular
      foundation is doomed to fail. In his view, Europe is now suffering a "crisis
      of civilizational morale" that can be directly attributed to its
      self-imposed decision to sever its future from its past.

      In a fascinating analysis, Weigel draws upon legal scholar J. H. H. Weiler,
      who accuses leading European intellectuals of being "Christophobic," and
      absolutely determined to eliminate or prevent any influence from
      Christianity.

      For the most part, Europe's intellectual class has adopted this secular
      project, apparently without reservation. Weigel argues his case clearly:
      "European high culture is largely Christophobic, and Europeans themselves
      describe their cultures and societies as post-Christian."

      Of course, falling birth rates and a loss of cultural morale do not emerge
      from an historical vacuum. Weigel traces many of the historical factors that
      convinced a large number of European intellectuals to see Christianity as
      the cause rather than the solution to civilizational crisis. Devastated by
      two world wars and humiliated by the Holocaust, Europe is reaping a
      whirlwind of cultural destruction, the seeds of which were sown early in the
      twentieth century.

      A civilization's historical memory is crucial in the development of its
      self-consciousness and its approach to the future. Weigel draws upon Henri
      de Lubac's theology of history to suggest that the rise of European
      civilization was, at least in part, made possible by the adoption of a
      Christian understanding of history. Whereas the ancients understood human
      beings to be the toys and playthings of capricious pagan deities, the God of
      the Bible revealed Himself as the Lord of history, who is accomplishing his
      beneficent purposes in the unfolding of time. Thus, "History was an arena of
      responsibility and purpose because history was the medium through which the
      one true God made himself known to his people and empowered them to lead
      lives of dignity, through the intelligence and free will with which he had
      endowed them in creation."

      The process of secularization has affected all advanced societies, but the
      ideology of secularism has taken hold of the European mind. In Weigel's
      words: "European man has convinced himself that in order to be modern and
      free, he must be radically secular. That conviction has had crucial, indeed
      lethal, consequences for European public life and European culture. Indeed,
      that conviction and its public consequences are at the root of Europe's
      contemporary crisis of civilizational morale. That crisis of civilizational
      morale, in turn, helps explain why European man is deliberately forgetting
      his history."

      Europe is in big trouble precisely because it now insists that democratic
      values can be established without the distinctive teachings of Christianity.
      As Weigel understands, Christianity establishes a transcendent understanding
      of human dignity, a clear affirmation of human responsibility, and the
      elaboration of a moral order that makes civilization possible. In committing
      itself to the path of radical secularism, Europe is setting the stage for
      its own destruction.

      When postmodern European intellectuals insist that European culture must be
      marked by "neutrality toward worldviews," they set themselves against both
      history and experience. In essence, this claim is tantamount to the arrogant
      supposition that human beings can establish their own dignity and demand
      that other human beings--completely without an account of transcendent
      values--will then rationally recognize and respect that dignity. How, after
      the hard lessons of the twentieth century, can European intellectuals hold
      such beliefs?

      In denying their past, these secular European intellectuals undercut their
      own future. "To deny that Christianity had anything to do with the evolution
      of free, law-governed, and prosperous European societies is, as I've argued
      above, more than a question of falsifying the past: it is also a matter of
      creating a future in which moral truth has no role in governance, in the
      determination of public policy, in understandings of justice, and in the
      definition of that freedom which democracy is intended to embody," Weigel
      asserts.

      Americans have a stake in this, to be sure. As Weigel warns, the European
      problem could "metastasize" to the United States. In any event, the close
      ties between Europe and the United States should be sufficient to demand the
      attention of thoughtful Americans.

      In the end, Weigel suggests several alternative futures for European
      civilization and its postmodern experiment. Among these, he holds hope that
      Europe may reaffirm its Christian heritage and recover a lost patrimony.
      Evangelicals would surely insist that this is far more likely to happen at
      the level of common citizens, rather than as an organized redirection of the
      cultural elites.

      George Weigel is an insightful historian whose analysis of the European
      crisis is largely transferable to our American context. After all, a class
      of American intellectuals desires and intends to move American culture
      precisely in the European direction--towards a sanitized and secularized
      culture that will attempt democracy without God. If these trends are not
      reversed, America could be just like Europe, but with a delayed fuse.

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