Saturday, December 29, 2007

La Défense or Notre Dame

I've just ordered from my pusher, Amazon, The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America and Politics without God. It was written a couple of years ago by George Weigel, an American Catholic, biographer of John-Paul II, and Founding President of the James Madison Foundation.

My defense of liberal democracy is basically a utilitarian one: it works better. Weigel thinks this is uninspiring and inadequate. Struck by the debate over whether the preamble to the European constitution should mention Christiantity, by the blank modernism of the Great Arch of La Défense, by the demographic suicide that Europe seems committed to, he has written this book to argue that liberal democracy needs God in order to survive.

There's a talk by Weigel and a short Q&A about the book here. It includes the following.

Can a political community established in an act of historical amnesia defend itself by giving an account of its commitments and its aspirations? Can a political community deliberately founded on principled skepticism about the human capacity to know the truth of anything give an account of its commitments to human rights, democracy, the rule of law, civility, and tolerance, beyond the very thin account that it works better, it's a less sloppy way to conduct public affairs, and things move more easily if we are all good to each other?

4 comments:

Hazar Nesimi said...

As we have argued the humanity - not just Europe needs God - or Faith in something - to survive. The society build on scepticism and irony will not survive - to which the current problems and doubts in Europe testify. Unquestionable faith brings fanaticism too, and associated repression - but in it there is a vitality of life and struggle, take struggle out of our lives and we fade away. Maybe you have to sacrifice one thing or the other.

Riri said...

My opinion is that humanity in general needs God, in different ways OK, but the need cannot be denied or it would be foolish and suicidal to attempt to do so. This need is illustrated by the many world religions and the entire history of mankind.

I think it is unfair to accuse non-believers of "choosing" to disbelieve, many admit that they sometimes envy believers and wish they still had the capacity to believe in God. They say they are disanchanted, God does not make sense to them and therefore they are incapable of believing in him. You can't simply erase God then bring him back into the equation and expect miracles to happen. Faith is a very complex thing, it depends on numerous layers of rational and intuitive thinking as well as subjective experiences. How can you infuse faith back into faithless souls? Not even politics can achieve that - it needs to come from within the people. But, whenever faith is based on irrationality the ghost of fanaticism is never far away.

NoolaBeulah said...

"How can you infuse faith back into faithless souls? Not even politics can achieve that"

Especially not politics.

But you're right. It is very complex thing that cannot be summoned at will. Many anti-religious people believe that religion is a set of beliefs that you can adopt, or relinquish, as you would an avatar on Second Life. But it is so much more; not least, practices and approaches to life that are passed on from one generation to the next. Since much of Europe seems determined that there will not be a next generation, and would have little to pass on if there were, it all becomes rather academic.

Hazar, "vitality of life and struggle" sounds a bit too much to me like that Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." Can you quantify how much struggle you want us to engage in, please? :)

Hazar Nesimi said...

Repression brings struggle against it - if the element of it has been taken wawy, we become lax, lenient, indulgent and "decadent; - next thing you know more "barbaric" from you point of view conquer and subjugate you not because you are weak but because there is no struggle against identifiable enemy. Dictators understood this well, sometimes inventing enemies