From the time of Alexander the Great, through the imperial commands of the Romans, through the cultural richness of the Byzantines, through the inhuman theocracy of the ecclesiastics, the European civilization is now where it is. It is now mandated by democracy, has given itself up to secularism and proclaims to be the champion of human rights.
Viewed in a religious retrospect, the Europeans have been subject to consistent transitions for millennia. Beginning with the Greco-Roman days of paganism, through the legalization of Christianity by Constantine, it successfully defeated the expansionist tendencies of Islam and transformed itself into a secular society, thanks to the modern revolutions and mass movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Europe introduced to the world the concept of secularism as the separation of church (religion) and state. But Europeans later distorted the perception of secularism to the rejection of religion, especially Christianity and the acceptance of the idea of state. Even in his recent Regensburg lecture, Pope Benedict XVI was in angst and anguish over the secularization of Europe. But it was a papal perspective. However, the retrogression from modern democracy to medieval theocracy is inconceivable.
Europe’s embrace of secularism is without parallel in history. At a time when the world was beset by superstitions and bedeviled by dogmatism, Europe most valiantly vanquished the inquisitors and successfully separated church and state, allowing its present-day inhabitants to enjoy the fruits of freedom and liberty.
The pertinent question at this juncture is what the future holds in store for Europe. The specter of the twin towers far across the Atlantic haunts the continent. The implications of the cartoon controversy are fresh in their minds. There are far right politicians and intellectuals predicting the emergence of a Eurabia. They marshal very cogent and coherent arguments to warn the commons of the imminent Islamisation of quondam Christendom. Consequenly, the Hijab is banned in France, the Dutch right wing is all set to take over Amsterdam and the anti-immigration movements are gathering momentum.
From a different perspective, the current religious ambiance of Europe gives us a very ambiguous picture. On one hand, pews in churches are empty, Christian festivals have lost their luminous aura and the religious icons are either disregarded or even disrespected by the followers of Christ. On the other, there is a burgeoning Muslim demography; Islam as viewed by its own puritans seems to be marching towards its inexorable objective and mosques mushroom by the day. Arabian architecture, which can be seen from the papal state of the Vatican and from which the Mohammedan rhymes can be heard five times a day by the Roman pontiff himself, pierces the skyline of Rome, the heart of Christianity.
Thus it is more about the future of Christianity in Europe than about the religious future of Europe. As for the former, it is a critical existential issue. As for the latter, the whirligig of time will take its own course and another chapter will be appended to the history of the religious transition of Europe.
This may well be the last hope of Christianity in Europe. The European society which is now accustomed to secular values is in no way willing to give them up, nor is it letting itself be overwhelmed by the theocratism which evolved to a dictatorship during the dark ages. The takeover of Europe by Islam, should it succeed, will be a reversion to theocracy with only the oppressive religion replaced.
With all the enthusiasm tthat o reject the intervention of religion in public life, Europeans are aware the freedom they enjoy today is the culmination of the struggles and striving which lasted for centuries. They are also cognizant of the fact that medieval Christianity was just a sham.
The reemergence of ecclesiastical tyranny is an unlikely scenario. But the triumph of radical Islam and the abolition of the liberal privileges that we take for granted is a disturbing possibility. The fear of such an eventuality may galvanize Europe to reinvent and reconfigure its Christian identity.Powered by Sidelines