Pera happens to be an atheist. Yet he recognizes the importance of acknowledging “the need to defend the founding principles of our own tradition”:
Our moral norms, and with them our coexistence and our institutions – the very same ones that have passed down and preserved for us the civilization in which we are living, at times troubled and afflicted, at times satisfied and hopeful – would wither and die if they were to cut themselves off from Christianity.
Indeed, he writes that civilization itself “sprang into being at the foot of the Cross,“ and that “if we remove the Christian underpinnings from human rights, not only will liberal doctrine collapse, but Western civilization will fall along with it.”
This does not mean that we must all be Christians, only that we must recognize our cultural debt to Christianity:
For the believer in Christ, that “gift of God” is grace, the unasked for, mysterious experience of an encounter with Him. For the believer in Christian culture, the “gift of God” is our Christian heritage of virtues, customs, habits, institutions – in short, our civilization.
It is not necessary that liberals be Christians in the former sense… It is essential that they be Christians in the latter sense, because being Christian by culture means possessing a foundation for our doctrine, a guide for our actions, a reference point, and a sign of hope.
One would expect that, as an atheist, Pera favors secularism. And to a certain extent he does. The secularism of which he approves
opposes theocracy, the submission of the state to ecclesiastical hierarchies, and the interference of churches with democratic decisions. It does not oppose religion, nor does it take Christianity as a fairy tale for the unintellectual.
But today’s secularism is different, Pera says. The secular culture of Europe today
is strongly ideological, averse to criticism, intolerant of objections, resistant to contradiction, impervious to contrary arguments. It is an anti-religious culture. It treats religion as superstition, as a vestige of a mythological era, as the legacy of a remote time in human history, as the leavings of intellectual immaturity… The only contribution of Christianity that secularism is willing to admit is the consolation of the foolish – a bit like magic, astrology, fairy tales, or quaint stories for the gullible.
And yet “the state is aggressive toward the principles of Christian believers, but tolerant of fundamentalist Islamic culture.” Europe “offers a dialogue to Islam for the same reason it does not want to talk to itself: the rejection of its own roots,”Pera says. “The bitter truth is that the West is afraid of Islam because it is afraid of religion, and of its own religion first of all.”
He offers ten reasons why we must overcome that fear and call ourselves Christians – among them, to remember our origins, to solve the moral crisis of Europe and the West, and to preserve pride in our civilization and defend it from attack. Without embracing this central pillar of our cultural identity, the West stands no chance against an enemy that has no such identity crisis, that is not hamstrung by cultural guilt and self-doubt, and that does not hesitate to assert its religious superiority.
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