Why do Europeans and Americans see the world so differently? Why do Europeans and Americans have such different understandings of democracy and its discontents in the twenty-first century? Contrasting the civilization that produced the starkly modernist “cube” of the Great Arch of La Defense in Paris with the civilization that produced the “cathedral” of Notre-Dame, George Weigel argues that Europe’s embrace of a narrow secularism has led to a crisis of morale that is eroding Europe’s soul and threatening its future — with dire lessons for the rest of the democratic world. Weigel traces the origins of “Europe’s problem” to the atheistic humanism of the nineteenth-century European intellectual life, which set in motion a historical process that produced two world wars, three totalitarian systems, the Gulag, Auschwitz, the Cold War — and, most ominously, the Continent’s de-population, which is worse today than during the Black Death. And yet, many Europeans still insist — most recently, during the debate over a new EU constitution — that only a public square shorn of religiously-informed moral argument is safe for human rights and democracy. Precisely the opposite, Weigel suggests, is true: the people of the “cathedral” can give a compelling account of their commitment to everyone’s freedom; the people of the “cube” cannot. Can there be any true “politics” — any true deliberation about the common good, and any robust defense of freedom — without God? George Weigel makes a powerful case that the answer is “No,” because, in the final analysis, societies are only as great as their spiritual aspirations.
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