Book Review: The Strange Death of Europe

Sometimes I learn nearly as much from a well thought out book review as I learn from the book itself, at least in outline form. Here is a book review, written by Richard Bastien, of “The Strange Death of Europe,” by Douglas Murray.

In reviewing Murray’s description of the decline and fall of European civilization, he makes a comparison with Arnold Toynbee’s 12 volume “A Study of History,” which studies the fall of many civilizations.

The theme sounds depressing, except that, for Christians, we cannot forget that God is active in history, and has his own plan.

I don’t know if I will read the book, but the review itself was instructive.

An excerpt:

“Toynbee famously said that “civilizations die from suicide, not by murder”, by which he meant that, instead of being destroyed by outside forces, they suffer a kind of “schism of the soul” that results in some form of cultural disintegration. Societies begin to disintegrate, he argued, when people believe that they are no longer bound by the moral law and allow themselves to be led by their impulses at the expense of their creativity. They also yield to a sense of drift, which brings them to believe that they have no control over their lives and that there is no point in resisting emerging forces threatening the world in which they live.”
. . .
“In other words, the surest sign of a civilization nearing its end is its uncritical acceptance that, socially and morally speaking, anything goes.”

Here is the link to the review.

“If Europe is to become a home for the world, says Murray, it must define itself on the basis of criteria that are vague enough to encompass the world. That can only be achieved through the erosion of elements traditionally associated with European identity: the rule of law, separation of Church and State, freedom of speech and religion, equality between the sexes, and so forth.”

What countries in Europe have traditions of separation of Church and State, and how long-standing are those traditions?

Was the establishment of the Church of England accomplished by private believers who merely requested and received legal authorization to create their Church?

Are Calvin and Luther essential elements of European tradition? Clearly they originated in Europe, but they could theoretically have originated anywhere Christians lived. Muslims pray facing Mecca and are told that if they are able then they are to visit Mecca at least once, but Christianity doesn’t seem to be a religion that makes special reference to any particular city as being of permanent interest and concern.

“Thus Toynbee’s theory of civilizational decline appears to enhance the validity and credibility of Murray’s analysis. But should we then conclude that such is the end of our story? Are we condemned to a life of spiritual and cultural vacuum such as that described in French writer Michel Houellebeck’s best-selling novels? (His latest, titled Submission, portrays a situation where a Muslim party upholding traditional and patriarchal values wins the 2022 presidential election in France with the support of the Socialist Party.)”

French language text about the author, as the name is spelled in French:

From the Library of Congress catalogue (how the name of the author is spelled in an English translation of the book):

Houellebecq, Michel,
Submission / Michel Houellebecq ; translated from the French by Lorin Stein.
London : William Heinemann, 2015.
PQ2668.O77 S6813 2015b OVERFLOWJ34?
Request in Jefferson or Adams Building Reading Rooms (FLM2)

Have you seen the video of people landing on the Spanish beach from Africa and just scattering into the country?

I just got back from 2 weeks in Europe (Spain to be exact); strangely, it seemed very much alive.

For now.

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