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Religion in Europe

Dan Wilhelmi calls our attention to a Washington Post article entitled "Europe´s Empty Churches"

It struck a deep note in me for two reasons: the basic reason is that I regard religion, the attempt to understand what life is all about and therefore how to behave, as the most important realm of thought. The more precise reason is that it opens with a description of magnificent Canterbury Cathedral, with only a few faithful attending service but mobs of tourists sightseeing. I grew up in Winchester, which also has a magnificent cathedral. Religious music is the most profound there is, and it is a cultural tragedy that the splendid English cathedral choirs sing gloriously for a few faithful. A culture's soul can be judged by its music. Incidentally, President GW Bush celebrated May 5 with a performance by a mariachi orchestraat the White House. Some dancers performed beautiful traditional dances, but the soloist seemed to have come straight from Hollywood. She writhed in the contemporary mode and bawled into a mike. So much for the globalizatioon of pop culture. The article lamented the ignorance among contemporary youth of the basic facts of Western cultural history.

The article goes on to examine the decline of Christianity throughout Europe, whereas other religions practiced by immigrants, notably Islam, flourish. America is far more church-going, but the level of violence is mush greater here. So formal religion would seem to have a limited effect on morality. This argument is too facile:Europe is still living off the religious heritage of the past, and the cult of guns, an inheritance from frontier days, is an American peculiarity.

A cathedral canon trusted that there would be a religious revival, but the article pointed out that scientific knowledge has undermined much of Christianity. That is why I attribute great importance to the work of the Templeton Foundation in the area of religion and science. The article could have added that much of Judeo-Christian verbiage makes little sense today. As a little choirboy I sang things like "Moab is my washpot" and wondered what they meant.

Ronald Hilton - 5/7/01