Why do Europeans and Americans see the world so differently? Why do Europeans and Americans have such different understandings of democracy and its discontents in the twenty-first century? Contrasting the civilization that produced the starkly modernist cube of the Great Arch of La D?®fense in Paris with the civilization that produced the cathedral of Notre-Dame, George Weigel argues that Europes embrace of a narrow secularism has led to a crisis of morale that is eroding Europes soul and threatening its future, with dire lessons for the rest of the democratic world.Weigel traces the origins of Europes problem to the atheistic humanism of the nineteenth-century European intellectual life, which set in motion a historical process that produced two world wars, three totalitarian systems, the Gulag, Auschwitz, the Cold War, and, most ominously, the Continents de-population, which is worse today than during the Black Death.And yet, many Europeans still insist, most recently, during the debate over a new EU constitution, that only a public square shorn of religiously-informed moral argument is safe for human rights and democracy. Precisely the opposite, Weigel suggests, is true: the people of the cathedral can give a compelling account of their commitment to everyones freedom; the people of the cube cannot.Can there be any true politics, any true deliberation about the common good, and any robust defense of freedom, without God? George Weigel makes a powerful case that the answer is No, because, in the final analysis,societies are only as great as their spiritual aspirations.
George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Catholic theologian and one of America’s foremost commentators on issues of religion and public life. A Newsweek contributor and Vatican analyst for NBC News, Weigel is the author of fifteen books, including the New York Times bestseller Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Pariss modernist La Grande Arche de la D fense and the Gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dame serve as metaphors for papal biographer Weigels (Witness to Hope) examination of what has happened to Europe in the last several decades and its significance to Americans. Weigel, an American Catholic theologian who has lived and worked on the continent, defines the "Europe problem" as the sharp divergence of European views on democracy, the world and politics from those held by Americans like himself. For him, La Grande Arche ("The Cube") symbolizes the new Europe, retreating from democracy, en route to depoliticization, enamored of international organizations and intellectually Christophobic. Notre-Dame, which guidebooks claim would fit inside the Cube, embodies Europes Christian history, now strangely absent from the constitution of the European Union. Weigel traces the "Europe problem" to the 19th-century rise of "atheistic humanism" and "the related triumph of secularization, or de-Christianization, in western Europe." He urges Americans to pay attention to what has happened there because it has implications for the future of democracy in the United States and throughout the world. In developing his thesis, Weigel draws on diverse sources, including the Polish-born Pope John Paul II, who has been keenly interested in Europes democracies. Readers given to pondering European affairs will find much to pique thoughtful discussion. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
- Publishers Weekly