It is a commonplace that one of the principal reasons for the much-discussed civilizational decline of the West is the loss of religious faith, at least in Europe, where multiculturalism and secularism have been elevated to religious status. (This is not to say that America’s religious character also isn’t under assault in ways large and small; witness, for example, President Obama’s absolute omission of any reference to God in last week’s Thanksgiving address, in which the once-and-future community organizer referred to the holiday as a mere “celebration of community”).
On his recent trip to Germany, Pope Benedict XVI lamented the increasing indifference toward religion in that country. But of course he meant indifference toward Christianity, not all religion, because he recognizes that Islam is thriving in Europe. In meetings with Muslim leaders, he praised the “great importance” Muslims placed on religion: “At times, this is thought-provoking in a society that tends to marginalize religion or at most to assign it a place among the individual’s personal choices.”
Continental Muslims themselves are keenly aware of the momentum they have accumulated and of Christianity’s contrasting torpor; and the supremacists among them, not content to “coexist” as the bumper sticker implores, are pressing their advantage. A Muslim immigrant group based in Bern, for example, has called for the emblematic white cross to be removed from the Swiss flag because as a Christian symbol it “no longer corresponds to today’s multicultural Switzerland.” The group recommends a flag that is less offensive to Muslims: “One has to ask if the State wants to continue building up a symbol in which many people no longer believe.”
But Islam is not the only antagonist that has been scaling Christian Europe’s walls for decades, of course. Brilliant British journalist and critic Melanie Phillips noted that the leftist bastion the BBC, loathe to offend non-Christians, has decided to replace the terms AD and BC (Anno Domini, or the Year of Our Lord, and Before Christ) with CE and BCE (Common Era and Before Common Era):
This attack on BC and AD, fatuous as it may seem on the surface, is yet another attack on British culture and the Christian underpinnings which provide it with its history, identity and fundamental values… The impulse behind changing such established terms – obviously as familiar to us all as the names of the days of the week – is part of the wider desire to obliterate Christianity in British culture.
To address this self-destructive desire, along comes Marcello Pera’s new book, Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians: The Religious Roots of Free Societies. Pera, a professor of political philosophy and the philosophy of science in Italy, and the president of the Italian Senate from 2001-2006, had previously co-written Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam with Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, who contributed a foreword to the new book. Pera’s complaint is that European “liberalism has lost faith in its own founding principles and has severed the historical and conceptual ties that once linked it to Christianity.”
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