Church bells herald crisis of faith
It was a stress-free week spent lazing around in my friend Daud Haider’s book-crammed apartment with bay windows, tucked away from the main street. I would wake up to grey mornings, the mist-laden air creating a vaporous haze.
It was cold and wet in Berlin, almost melancholic. Mozart’s Adagio or Beethoven’s Sonata would have been apt for such mornings, but all that I got to hear was the peeling of the neighbourhood church bells. If that was a call to the faithful to fill the pews, it was a wasted effort.
The church, with a neo-Gothic façade, wore a desolate look, its windows shuttered and yard littered with ochre leaves turning a dull brown. The lichen-covered flagstone pathway had not been tread upon for ages. A strange, almost eerie silence hung heavy. The M Club across the street, with slyly winking tawdry fairy lights in velvet-screened windows, rudely mocked at this relic of faith.
In his celebrated September 2006 lecture on ‘Faith, Reason and the University’ at Regensburg, Pope Benedict XVI had passionately defended faith while elaborating on the “profound encounter of faith and reason… an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion”. That encounter, the Pope said, gave “rise to two principles which are crucial” today, as faith rapidly yields space to scornful scepticism disguised as reason.
“First, only the kind of certainty resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. Hence the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology and philosophy, attempt to conform themselves to this canon of scientificity. A second point, which is important for our reflections, is that by its very nature this method excludes the question of god, making it appear an unscientific or pre-scientific question. Consequently, we are faced with a reduction of the radius of science and reason, one which needs to be questioned.”
What the Pope said nearly a decade ago is much more relevant today than it was then. Reason and faith are not mutually exclusive, nor does science negate god. It is intellectual laziness, if not dishonesty — both made fashionable by new age Left radicalism, pretentious liberalism and outrageously amoral libertarianism, the grotesque ménage à trois of our times — that leads to the repudiation of faith and rejection of god.
Increasingly faithless Europe cannot but eventually morph into Eurabia. Switzerland may have banned the minaret, France may have banished the burqa and centre-right Germans may be rallying against Islamism, but these are at best feeble attempts at building a dyke after Europe has been flooded by Islam. Neither ‘genuine enlightenment’ nor the ‘radius of science and reason’ finds a resonance among immigrant believers who stand out in sharp contrast to native non-believers.
Ironically, those who have abandoned god and faith have not embraced either science or reason. They have given themselves to gay abandon, literally and metaphorically.
In 1921 Rabindranath Tagore had encountered Germans “frustrated by military defeat, economic disaster and political chaos”. Almost a century later, German soldiers prefer teddies over guns, the German economy is the strongest in Europe and German politics is all about staid and boring stability.
Yet the ‘light’ that eluded Germans when Tagore was feted by “a multitude of people expecting a light from the East” seems to have remained elusive. Nothing else would explain the self-flagellation of a Christian nation whose President said that Islam is a “part of Germany”, adding, almost as an afterthought, “like Christianity and Judaism”.
Empty churches and the twice-fire-bombed synagogue of Berlin fly in the face of that half-hearted assertion. The Turks who were brought in to help with Germany’s post-War reconstruction were inspired by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. Latter day Muslim immigrants, especially those who have sought shelter in Germany claiming ‘persecution’ at home, are inspired by the zealotry of Mohammed Atta who embarked upon his villainous mission from this country.
Realisation of sorts is gradually beginning to seep in as middle-aged Germans look around in amazement at a country they increasingly find difficult to identify as their own. Young Germans are irritated, though not necessarily concerned. An opinion poll showed more than a third of the natives believed their country was “overrun by foreigners” who had inveigled their way in for Germany’s famed social benefits.
That had prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel to admit, the first German leader to do so, that attempts to build a multicultural society had “utterly failed”. Bogus talk of building a ‘multikulti’ utopia has proved to be so much hot air — just that and no more, although the Chancellor, a politician with an eye to potential voters, was less acerbic with her choice of words.
Addressing young members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union she said, “At the beginning of the 1960s our country called the foreign workers to come to Germany and now they live in our country. We kidded ourselves a while, we said: ‘They won’t stay, sometime they will be gone.’ But this isn’t the reality… The approach to build a multicultural society and to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other... has failed, utterly failed.”
This failure is evident in country after country across Europe. Londonistan which now has ‘Sharia’h Enforced Here’ zones is written about and heard of; other cities are fast sliding in that direction. Berlin is witnessing a proliferation of mosques. Not all of them are used for preaching the ‘religion of peace’.
The plaintive pealing of church bells tells Christendom’s sad story.
The writer is a senior journalist based in the National Capital Region. His Twitter handle is @KanchanGupta