Secularists are often blamed by religious figures for everything from hurricanes to teen pregnancies. Now, it appears that secularists are also responsible for religious extremism and, oh yes, the demise of Western Civilization and Europe as we know it. No, this is not the latest religious tirade from Tony Blair. It is Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks of Aldgate, who clearly pinned the blame for the demise of Europe on those who hold secularist views. Lord Sacks, 61, is Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since 1991.
Lord Sacks insists that the rise of secularism has diminished the influence of “tolerant religion” which he compares to the rise of fundamentalism — an apparent reference to Islam. In an annual lecture to the think-tank Theos in London, he noted that Europe was the world’s most secular region and the only one experiencing population decline. This, he suggested, is due to the fact that religion pushes family and parenthood. The result of the rise of secularism, he explained, is a drop in population which is being overwhelmed by fundamentalist immigrants. It also has created dangerous “relativism” due to people who are no longer following the direction of religious leaders like himself.
However, he is most concerned about production of Judeo-Christian babies. Religion, he insists, means bigger families which means more people to resist the threat of fundamentalism: “Wherever you turn today – Jewish, Christian or Muslim – the more religious the community, the larger on average are their families.”
He also accused secularists of having no sense of sacrifice and duty — for that, it appears, you need God: “In that [secular] culture, where will you find space for the concept of sacrifice for the sake of generations not yet born? Europe is dying, exactly as Polybius said about ancient Greece in the third pre-Christian century.”
He added: “Albert Camus once said, ’The only serious philosophical question is why should I not commit suicide? I think he was wrong. The only serious philosophical question is, why should I have a child? Our culture is not giving an easy answer to that question.”
Lord Sacks holds to a rather old saw: that Western Civilization is doomed without a religious foundation. He ties that view to a more concrete notion that it all comes down to the population numbers — whoever has the most kids wins. It is not really the size of your population but the size of your ideas that ultimately prevails in history. The Mongols had a large population and a successful army but left little cultural or political influence on history despite actual conquests. The Visigoths and other cultures left an equally light historical footprint. Was it for lack of faith or the lack of civilizing values?
Our principles will prevail because they are right and tied to basic human needs for free speech, association, and, yes, religion. Ironically, those who advocate faith-based politics like Blair and Obama are threatening those values by aligning themselves with the force of intolerance like Egypt, here. The Chief Rabbi should be more concerned about the growing sacrifice of free speech on the altar of religion than how we need to drop our secular values if we want to survive.
He ends with this dire warning:
“Let me be blunt. Either we win or the fundamentalists win and that is the challenge. If the fundamentalists win, I wouldn’t hang around too long.”
Secularists might not be too aggrieved if Lord Sacks did not hand around too long.
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