Saturday, February 03, 2007

Losing faith in godlessness

I have a strong feeling that, if Europe is to rediscover its confidence and its élan, it will, in part, be through a resurgence of the Catholic church. It will not just be that people flee from relativism towards dogma, but rather that they will accept the framework of an intellectual tradition built on the idea of truth achieved through reason though built on faith. Pope Benedict XVI is the embodiment of this tradition; his Regensburg Address was one fruit of it. His church is the daughter of Greek as much as Hebrew civilisation.

It has another strand, one that has an important political dimension.

"Within this history of mankind which is ours," Ratzinger wrote, "there will never be the absolute, ideal condition." Which more or less means: Salvation is not of this world, let's not fool ourselves, but instead try to live truthfully.
Islam is going to attract a lot of adherents among those who previously were drawn to communism and fascism and their millennial promises. In its more radical versions it, too, imagines a world turned upside down, a revolution that will bring about the triumph of virtue. It imposes a discipline that can shut down doubt and uncertainty. It enables righteousness armoured with victimisation. The Catholic church has always postponed the New Jerusalem indefinitely, thus encouraging both hope and caution, essential political qualities.

It has other weapons in its armoury. According to this article, Benedict is planning to bring back some of the more sensual faith aids.
The dramatization of the sacred - Gregorian chants, billowing incense, ritual formulas murmured in Latin, the whole marvelous mystery play with a soupçon of Dan Brown - is a "unique selling point" on the faith market, and should not be thoughtlessly cast aside.

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