Tyler Cowen on europe and secularism

From Marginal Revolution:

Why is Europe becoming ever more secular?

As in American academia, European secularism is a mark of identity and (supposed) reasonableness. Europeans are surrounded by Islam on one side, Russia on another, and the United States across the ocean. Reasonableness is a natural identity for their smart people to slot themselves into. Yes state churches have made European religion bureaucratic and sluggish, but that is not the main story. Competitive religious alternatives, albeit unfunded by government, could have sprung up and captured hearts and minds but they didn’t.

Nonetheless the rise of European secularism will be reversed. Most people are only casually religious, but a chunk of every society has a tendency to be enthusiastically religious. European religions will restructure and make a comeback, at least among this chunk. Unlike in times past, I doubt if this segment will have the social status to pressure many others to go along, but it would still represent a fundamental shift in the European intellectual climate. This development would probably happen immediately, if not for the European fear of becoming too much like the United States. In any case the identity of reasonableness is not a sustainable meme for so many people in the long run; it doesn’t demand enough from its adherents. Hume wrote of cycles between monotheism and polytheism, had he lived later he could have tossed secularism into that mix.

And then there is Islam.

i will beg to differ. From what i know of (western) Europe, a religious resurrection is unlikely. What is much more likely is that ethics and ecology merge into some New Ethics, which will become coherent enough to galvanize the secular population into behaving more or less like the religious (getting all worked up about something important) without having to go back to old-fashioned religion

Europeans (again i can only speak for the west and have no idea what the mix of communism and orthodoxy has produced in the east) have become fundamentally secular – even the religious (ie pastors, priests, etc.) among them. This secularism is a suspicion of all grand religious or political schemes that has been slowly and very effectively bred into them. And it is a good thing.

What must and probably will indeed change in Europe is their lack of enthusiasm for anything. This is not a feature of secularism per se (think of France during and right after the revolution of 1789) but of too many wars. Once the europeans start getting really worried about the state of the world again (and stop contemplating their rather uninteresting navel), they will regain their exuberance of yore. This time however, their excitement has gone through many dangerous fires, and will now stick to what they are convinced is good, true and fundamentally important: helping people and saving the planet.

But then there is Islam.

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