Tuesday, July 3, 2007

“Is God Dead?” was the famous/infamous Time magazine cover Easter Sunday 1966 that triggered a nationwide firestorm of criticism. Murder threats were commonplace for the self-described “apocalyptic theologian” Thomas Alrizer, a former Emory Professor of Religion, whose Death of God thesis posited God put himself completely into Jesus’ body and died when Jesus was crucified.

More recently, pundit Christopher Hitchins’ “God is Not Great: The case Against Religion” unloaded both starboard and port broadside salvos that garnered more claps than boos from book reviewers. His smorgasbord of faiths — “Anglican, educated at a Methodist school, converted by marriage to Greek Orthodoxy… and remarried by a rabbi” — is discarded with fire-and-brimstone atheism. “Papal bull for the nonbeliever,” wrote the Guardian’s Mary Riddell.

“The early fathers of faith were living in a time of ‘human prehistory,’ when no one had any idea of what was going on and God provided as good a back-story as any,” Mr. Hitchens argues, but “Now that Darwin has explained our origins and Einstein has charted the beginnings of the cosmos, the excuses for blind faith have evaporated.”

The ranks of believers are still growing in the United States. But European stats make grim reading. Eurobarometer surveys since 1970 in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy show regular church attendance fell from about 40 percent of the population to half that figure. The Prague Post said only 19 percent of the Czech Republic’s 10.3 million people believe God exists and that more believe in UFOs.

In a similar vein, historian (20 books) Walter Laqueur’s “The Last Days of Europe” writes the “Epitaph for an Old Continent.” European churches are empty, mosques are jammed and the blind liberal belief in multiculturalism is a leaky lifeboat in the realpolitik ocean. Islamist extremists, spurning multicultural stratagems for integration, were allowed to proselytize their violent creed with impunity under freedom of speech laws. Communist Party members did their thing in democratic countries, so why not Islamists?

The devastating September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the U.S. didn’t change what European leaders were prone to dismiss as the soapbox rhetoric of Islam’s fundamentalists. After all, wasn’t multiculturalism absorbing Muslim youth that wasn’t too interested in mosques and Friday prayers anyway?

The July 7, 2005, attacks on the London subway and a double-decker bus was reveille, but a day late and a dollar short. The rabble-rousing had already morphed to the Internet — and its more than 5,000 pro-al Qaeda Web sites — which now functions as a detection-proof terrorist network.

Moving through cyberspace every 24 hours is the equivalent of almost 1,000 times the entire content of the Library of Congress with its 130 million items on 530 miles of shelf space. Steganography, the technique of concealing messages inside innocent family pictures, is widely used in cyberspace.

Appeasement in the 1930s spawned near total devastation in World War II. Following a remarkable, U.S.-funded postwar recovery, Europe closed ranks behind America to push back on Soviet imperialism. Moscow also supplied the catalyst of fear, which fueled the engine of European integration. Much of the unskilled labor came streaming in from former North African and South Asian colonies. The whimpering end of the Cold War liberated Eastern Europe’s former Soviet satellites and Europe’s Western welfare states beckoned.

Almost two decades after the end of the Cold War, the 27-nation European Union counts 494 million people and a gross domestic product of $15 trillion, about the same as the United States. But appeasement is back. A Dutch Justice Minister said, “If a majority of Dutchmen opt for the Shariah (Islamic law) at some future date, this has to be respected.”

Coupled with an aging native European population and an exploding Muslim influx (Mohammed is the second most popular name for newborn baby boys in Dutch cities), the Continent’s 20 million Muslims will become majorities in several European cities by midcentury. Meanwhile, Mr. Laqueur’s “Last Days of Europe,” tongue only half in cheek, fears the emergence of Europe as “a museum of world history and civilization preaching the importance of morality in world affairs to a nonexistent audience.”

A United States of Europe (USE) would clearly subsume the fear of Eurabia. But USE is a bridge too far. The current attempts to relaunch the European enterprise after France and the Netherlands vetoed a European constitution reflect the lowest common denominator of integration. “Europe is not willing to pay the price for becoming a world player,” says Mr. Laqueur. Germany deployed 3,400 troops to join the NATO deployment in Afghanistan. But Berlin decided they could not be used in a combat role against Taliban.

What would happen in another Middle Eastern war? Mr. Laqueur’s answer: “The farcical and wholly ineffectual negotiations between the European Union and Tehran about the Iranian nuclear buildup may well be an indication of the shape of things to come.” Invariably, welfare trumps national security. European voters will turf out any leader who tries to throttle back on the achievements of the welfare state that allows Germany’s jobless, for example, to get by in Mallorca on monthly benefit checks.

Normal teaching in Berlin schools with emigrant children from Muslim countries has broken down, writes Mr. Laqueur, “becoming blackboard jungles of Arabs fighting Turks, Turks combating Kurds, Muslims versus emigrants from Russia and the Balkans, and everyone against the Germans.”

The debate, Mr. Laqueur concludes, “should be about which of Europe’s traditions and values can still be saved, not about Europe as a shining example for all mankind, the moral superpower of the 21st century. The age of delusions is over.”

Next September, construction will begin for Europe’s largest mosque, with two six-story minarets, in the shadow of Cologne cathedral. In London, an even bigger one is planned for erection next to the site of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

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