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The Spiritual Malaise That Haunts Europe

George Weigel

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Continent faces a grim future if it turns its back on its religious roots

America's "Europe problem" and Europe's "America problem" have been debated for years. The debate is usually framed in terms of policy differences: over prosecuting the war on terrorism; over the United Nations' role in world affairs; over the Kyoto Protocol on the global environment; over Iraq. The differences are real. But attempts to understand them in political, strategic and/or economic terms alone will ultimately fail because such explanations don't reflect the human texture of contemporary Europe.

Europe, and especially Western Europe, is suffering from a crisis of civilizational morale. The most dramatic manifestations are not Europe's fondness for governmental bureaucracy or its devotion to fiscally shaky healthcare schemes and pension plans, its lagging productivity or the appeasement mentality that some leaders display toward Islamist terrorism. No, the most dramatic manifestation is the brute fact that Europe is depopulating itself.

Europe is depopulating itself in numbers greater than at any time since the Black Death of the 14th century. When an entire continent, healthier, wealthier and more secure than ever before, fails to create the human future in the most elemental sense -- by creating the next generation -- something serious is afoot.

Some analysts have tried to explain this extraordinary phenomenon economically (the cost of children), others sociologically (changing social attitudes), still others ideologically (the rise of feminism). Each explanation contains an important grain of truth. But I am convinced that Europe's demographic meltdown is best analyzed in the realm of the human spirit, and that it is directly related to European high culture's abandonment of biblical religion.

This article was published in "The Los Angeles Times." Read the entire article on the Ocnus.Net website (new window will open). Free registration may be required.

Posted: 04-May-05



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