John Hawkins: In your opinion, why is it that Europe has become so much more secular than the United States, where Christianity is still strong?
Mark Steyn: The short answer is separation of church and state - and I use that phrase as it was intended to be used: The founders’ distaste for "establishment of religion" simply means that they didn't want President Washington also serving as head of the Church Of America and the Archbishop of Virginia sitting in the Unites States Senate - as to this day the Queen is Supreme Governor of the Church Of England and the Archbishop of York sits in the House Of Lords. Most European countries either had de jure state churches, like England, or de facto ones, like Catholic Italy. One consequence of that is the lack of portability of faith: in America, when the Episcopalians and Congregationalists go all post-Christian and relativist, people find another church; in Britain, when Christians give up on the Church of England, they tend to give up on religion altogether.
So the dynamism of American faith exemplifies the virtues of the broader society: the US has a free market in religion, Europe had cosseted overregulated monopolies and cartels. The other salient point is that obviously Europe does have a religion: radical secularism. The era of the state church has been replaced by an age in which the state itself is the church. European progressives still don't get this: they think the idea of a religion telling you how to live your life is primitive, but the government regulating every aspect of it is somehow advanced and enlightened.
John Hawkins: A lot of people like to play down the differences between America and Europe, but it has become clear that there is a huge cultural & political gap between us on a wide variety of issues. Why do you believe we've grown so far apart or have we also been split like this and just haven't really noticed because our cooperation during the Cold War masked the differences?
Mark Steyn: Well I'd say the Cold War in the end caused many of the irreconcilable differences. By guaranteeing the Continent's security, the US liberated most of Western Europe from the core responsibilities of nationhood. And if you treat grown-ups like children they’ll behave like children. It's essentially the American taxpayer, for example, who pays for European government health care, by assuming the defence costs for Germany, Belgium and so forth.
The utopian welfarism of Europe has so corroded the basic impulses necessary for societal survival - ie, breeding - that I doubt anything can be done. But if the US seriously wanted to help it would accelerate the closure of all Continental bases. Even if that didn’t persuade them to get real, it would still be worth doing, as when the European powder keg goes up America will want to be well clear. On the basic problem of their deathbed demographics, a reader of mine, Jim Ellinthorpe, thinks President Bush should give speeches mocking the virility of European men. I'm all in favor of this, though mainly on entertainment grounds. A Berlin airlift of cheap generic Viagra might also be useful.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Hawkins Interviews Steyn
Even in an informal interview via e-mail, Mark Steyn is an outstanding writer. The whole thing is well worth reading. Here's a taste: