European secularism

Why is Europe becoming ever more secular?

As in American academia, European secularism is a mark of identity and (supposed) reasonableness.  Europeans are surrounded by Islam on one side, Russia on another, and the United States across the ocean.  Reasonableness is a natural identity for their smart people to slot themselves into.  Yes state churches have made European religion bureaucratic and sluggish, but that is not the main story.  Competitive religious alternatives, albeit unfunded by government, could have sprung up and captured hearts and minds but they didn’t. 

Nonetheless the rise of European secularism will be reversed.  Most people are only casually religious, but a chunk of every society has a tendency to be enthusiastically religious.  European religions will restructure and make a comeback, at least among this chunk.  Unlike in times past, I doubt if this segment will have the social status to pressure many others to go along, but it would still represent a fundamental shift in the European intellectual climate.  This development would probably happen immediately, if not for the European fear of becoming too much like the United States.  In any case the identity of reasonableness is not a sustainable meme for so many people in the long run; it doesn’t demand enough from its adherents.  Hume wrote of cycles between monotheism and polytheism, had he lived later he could have tossed secularism into that mix.

And then there is Islam.

#32 out of 50.

By the way, Happy Fiftieth Birthday to the European Union.  For all its bureaucracy, it has done more for human liberty in the last ten years than any other institution.  I mean "enlargement" and Eastern Europe, of course.


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