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Does Europe need God?

Harold James38. Economic Conference

Does Europe need God?

This lecture examines the question of whether a transcendental principle, which some will think of as God, is required as the foundation for what today most people interpret as a purely rational or secular business of building a consensual law-based society that is liberal and open. The question may seem disturbing or at least paradoxical, in that we have been taught by generations of liberal writers to think of the liberal and open society as being precisely defined by their exclusion of religious reference. Liberalism, they hold, generates a calm consensus that has replaced all the factionalism and animosity created by religious fundamentalisms. But as the liberal worldview became all-encompassing, it gradually lost its normative capacity. The intellectual fashion turned to an attack on what was now dismissively referred to as “the Enlightenment Project,” and at the same time worried about the obscure sources in the human psyche that fed the new fundamentalisms. A superficial view presented the major threat to world stability as emanating from religious fanaticism, instead of interpreting the tragic events of the so-called Arab Spring as a backlash against a brutally imposed nexus of secularization and modernization.


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