A fundamental question has troubled European unification since the Treaty of Rome in 1957, writes Thornton:
“What comprises the collective beliefs of and values that can form the foundations of a genuine European-wide community?
What is it that all Europeans believe?
“Europe and its nations were forged in the matrix of ideas, ideals, and beliefs of Christianity, which gives divine sanction to notions like human rights, the sanctity of the individual, political freedom and equality. Today across Europe Christian belief is a shadow of its former self.
“Fewer and fewer Europeans regularly go to Church. … It is common for many European cathedrals to have more tourists during a service than parishioners. … This process of secularization — already well advanced in 1887 when Nietzsche famously said, ‘God is no more than a faded word today, not even a concept’ — is nearly complete today, leaving Europe without its historical principle of unity.”
Political religions — communism, fascism, nazism — are substitute gods that failed. “Nor has secular social democracy … provided people with a transcendent principle that justifies sacrifice for the greater good, or even gives people a reason to reproduce.
“A shared commitment to:
- a short workweek, and
- a generous social safety net
is nothing worth killing or dying for.”
And who will die for Donetsk, Luhansk or Crimea?
Pacifism beckons. Every major European nation in NATO — Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland — will see defense spending in 2015 below 2 percent of GDP.
The idea of One Europe has depended on “the denigration of patriotism and national pride,” writes Thornton, “Yet all peoples are the products of a particular culture, language, mores, traditions, histories, landscapes. … That sense of belonging to a community defined by a shared identity cannot be created by a single currency.”
Christianity gave Europe its faith, identity, purpose and will to conquer and convert the world. Christianity created Europe. And the death of Christianity leaves the continent with no unifying principle save a watery commitment to democracy and La Dolce Vita.
From Marine Le Pen’s France to Putin’s Russia - nationalism and patriotism are surging across Europe because:
peoples, deprived of or disbelieving in the old faith, want a new faith to give meaning, purpose, vitality to their lives, something to live for, fight for, die for.
Countless millions of Muslims have found in their old faith their new faith.
And the descendants of fallen-away European Christians of the 19th and 20th centuries are
finding their new faith in old tribal and national identities.
Less and less does multiculturalism look like the wave of the future.