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Jurgen Habermas on the Vision of a Post-Secular Europe

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A European community grounded only in political and economic cooperation of the member states would lack an intrinsic common bond. It would be built upon sand.” —Klaus Held

The first quote above quote is lifted from a brilliant essay published in the Fall of 2002 by Klaus Held titled, “The Origins of Europe with the Greek Discovery of the World”. The essay is a must read for anyone interested in exploring the very origins of European culture and concerned about its present trajectory and its future destination. Now that the whole Western world is in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis, his words on the inadequacy of a mere economic vision with an attendant banal trade treaty parading as a constitution of sort, resonate with special vibrancy.

Held insists throughout his essay that to forget the vital component of religion, which was at the root of science and democracy’s appearance in ancient Greece, is to understand precious little of what makes Western cultural in general the unique culture that it is. This is a theme previously explored by Christopher Dawson (in his The Making of Europe, 1932) as well as by George Santayana, an atheist who nevertheless held that the enigma that is Europe will forever elude us without a clear and unbiased understanding of the phenomenon of Christianity.

Two years later, on June 9, 2004, Held’s watershed article was followed by a report by the European Policy Center in Brussels drafted by a senior research fellow, Dr. Jocelyne Cesari. In it Ms. Cesari reports that Europe is the only region of the world which has a general hostility toward religion—that Europeans have a tendency to explain every sign of backwardness in terms of religion.

The European tendency, according to this scholarly report, is to equate Muslim religion, and indeed all religions, with fanaticism. This phenomenon unique to Europe was also documented by the World Values Survey conducted by a group of social scientists who identify its roots in the Enlightenment Period, the period of Voltaire, the very icon of Enlightenment who while asserting that he would defend to death the right of dissent and free speech of any citizen, at the same time, and paradoxically, writes the famed “Mahomet, of Fanaticism” in 1745, without ever retracting his misguided tract. In fact, he dies cursing Dante whom he considered a bigoted Medieval (Gothic was his favored slur) poet and therefore not a great poet. That spirit, according to Cesari and the World Values Survey lives on today. But there are signs that the anti-religion virulence is in abeyance in Europe and one who detects those signs is none other than the present day European philosopher Jurgen Habermas. He seems to detect what he calls a “post-secular” age on the European horizon. This has all the self-proclaimed secular humanists, who generally disdain religion and advocate its liquidation, a bit worried lately. Their strident vitriolic statements against religion have been on the increase lately. For they have always fantasized of being at the very cutting edge of what it means to be modern and “enlightened” and now feel such a position challenged not only by theologians and religious leaders but by a philosopher to boot.

The misnomer “secular humanism” was certainly not invented by the original European humanists in 14th century Italy. Its acknowledged father, Francesco Petrarca was a deacon of the Church and indeed most humanists were and remained pious believers. Secularism by itself is a neutral term distinguishing the sacred from the secular or temporal. Dante certainly made the distinction and places three Popes in hell for failing to make that distinction and confusing the sacred with the temporal. Indeed, Humanism by itself does not indicate an unfriendly stance toward religion.

The modern fallacy consists in placing secular as an adjective before humanist as if to imply that to be a humanist one needs to be a secularist inimical to religion which is definitely not the case. It is also not the case that all secularists (what the French and Italians call “laicitè” or “laicità”) are ipso facto atheists and agnostics unfriendly to religion. One of those secularists was Robert Shumann who is up for canonization by the Catholic Church, another was De Gaperi who was also a practicing Catholic. In other words, secularism and catholicity do not have to be mutually exclusive.

But the vitriolic language persists. Here is a quote from a famous avowed atheistic scientist, Richard Dawkins, from his book The God Delusion: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

One may object that the likes of Dawkins are mere aberrations and therefore arguments against them are merely ad hominem attacks, that one ends up fighting straw men and windmills, but to the contrary they are examples of a type of “enlightened” modern prototypes ready to fantasize a bully God while denying his existence, an apparent contradiction never fully explained, convinced that the sooner religion is liquidated, the better. They are willing and ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater and eliminate the use and the practice of religion because of its abuses.

Jurgen Habermas must have surely read Held’s influential essay. Habermas is very much involved in the debate on the EU identity and has even signed manifestos on the same with Umberto Eco, the late Derrida and other influential philosophers. In 2005 Habermas delivered a lecture on the occasion of the Holberg prize which then became an article in 2006. See “Religion in the public sphere” by J. Habermas, in European Journal of Philosophy 14: 1-25. The core of that essay is that “secular citizens in Europe must learn to live, the sooner the better, in a post-secular society and in so doing they will be following the example of religious citizens, who have already come to terms with the ethical expectations of democratic citizenship. So far secular citizens have not been expected to make a similar effort.”

Habermas addresses the debate in terms of John Rawls’s concept of “public use of reason.” At the beginning of the article Habermas introduces two closely linked ideas: on the one hand the increasing isolation of Europe from the rest of the world in terms of its religious configurations, and on the other hand the notion of “multiple modernities.” He challenges the notion that Europe is the lead society in the modernizing process and invites his fellow secular Europeans to what he calls “a self reflective transcending of the secularist self-understanding of Modernity,” an attitude that goes beyond mere tolerance in as much as it necessarily engenders feelings of respect for the world view of the religious person, so that their pronouncements don’t automatically engender derision and contempt, a la Voltaire.

In other words, Habermas while advocating reciprocity and the “public use of reason” in the agora and not only in the privacy of one’s church, synagogue or mosque, is proposing a new challenging question: Are religious issues simply to be regarded as relics of a pre-modern era, or is it the duty of the more secular citizens to overcome their narrowly secularist consciousness in order to engage with religion in terms of what Habermas calls “reasonably expected disagreement”? That of course assumes a degree of rationality on both sides. It is indeed a challenging argument, one in which the relative secularity of Europe is increasingly seen as an exceptional, rather than prototypical case. I submit that the real debate on this crucial issue of the EU identity, which is the root cause of much political confusion nowadays, has hardly begun. There may not be much time left. Once totalitarianism and tyranny returns to Europe, and raises its ugly head even in America (to wit Donald Trump), the opportunity for dialogue and debate will vanish for good. We’ll be left with the dictates of the dictators.

Professor Paparella has earned a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism, with a dissertation on the philosopher of history Giambattista Vico, from Yale University. He is a scholar interested in current relevant philosophical, political and cultural issues; the author of numerous essays and books on the EU cultural identity among which A New Europe in search of its Soul, and Europa: An Idea and a Journey. Presently he teaches philosophy and humanities at Barry University, Miami, Florida. He is a prolific writer and has written hundreds of essays for both traditional academic and on-line magazines among which Metanexus and Ovi. One of his current works in progress is a book dealing with the issue of cultural identity within the phenomenon of “the neo-immigrant” exhibited by an international global economy strong on positivism and utilitarianism and weak on humanism and ideals.

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How a U.S. Colony Works: The Case of Germany

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On 15 July 2022, Britain’s Reuters news agency headlined “70% of Germans back Ukraine despite high energy prices, survey shows”, and reported that “Some 70% of those polled backed Germany’s support for Ukraine, … found the survey conducted between July 12-14 by broadcaster ZDF.” ZDF is funded by the German Government — German taxpayers. 

Germany’s AfD Party is one of the two Parties in Germany that are less than enthusiastically backing Germany’s anti-Russia position, the other such Party being “Die Linke” or “The Left” Party, which is Germany’s only socialist democratic Party, despite West Germany’s “Social Democratic Party” calling itself “democratic socialist” while being neither. 

The AfD Party issued a press release, on 25 August 2022, “Stephan Brandner: Skandalöse „Politische Filter“ beeinflussen NDR-Berichterstattung” or “Stephan Brandner: Scandalous ‘political filters’ influence NDR reporting.” It reported that Mr. Brandner, who is an AfD Member of the German Parliament, said that

After the self-service affair about the now hated RBB director Schlesinger, reminiscent of feudal structures, an online magazine now reports that employees on North German radio complain about ‘political filters’ from their superiors. According to the report …, public service broadcasting executives act like ‘ministerial press officers’. … 

As an AfD politician I am not surprised. After all, ARD and ZDF only report on the AfD with a ‘political filter’ and, for example, no longer invite AfD politicians to talk shows. … Compulsory contributions [by taxpayers, to ‘public broadcasting’] should be abolished.

Mr. Brandner provided no evidence for any of his allegations. (That’s the way politics is in a dictatorship. How can the public vote intelligently if they are routinely accepting allegations that are being made without supplying documentation? That’s a dictatorship by lies and liars, and no democracy-capable public would accept it. In science, what is not documented to be true is assumed to be false — not assumed to be true. A democratic country operates on the basis of science, not on the basis of faith.)

However, this doesn’t mean that Mr. Brandner’s allegations there are necessarily false. One reason why they could very well be true is that there are six Parties in Germany, and the current governing coalition consists of the three that take the hardest line against Russia, and for America, and for the post-2014, U.S.coup, anti-Russian, Ukrainian Government. The ruling coalition, those three Parties, are called the “traffic-light coalition”, and include the rabidly neoconservative (or pro-U.S.-empire) anti-Russian Green Party, plus the U.S. Democratic Party-allied so-called “Social Democratic Party,” plus the rabidly libertarian or “neoliberal” (pro-free-market, anti-regulation, and generally U.S.-Republican-Party-allied) Free Democratic Party; and they EXCLUDE (or give the red light to, and prevent from participating in the Government) the three least-anti-Russian Parties, which are The Left Party (the authentic democratic socialists, or progressives, ideologically opposed to any imperialism), the AfD Party (nationalists), and the U.S.-Republican-Party-allied CDU/CSU Christian Democratic and Christian Social Union Party. 

Brandner raised an important question, without providing any evidence regarding its solution. But here are some relevant facts, regarding the extent to which Germany’s Government tolerates corruption (which includes corruptness of a Government and of its ‘news’-media):

On 14 December 2021, I did an analysis comparing the anti-corruption laws in three nations, and headlined “Political Corruption in U.S., Germany, and Russia”. I concluded that 

Although this is a very incomplete indicator of a country’s corruptness, it does present the U.S. in a very favorable light, and present Germany (11 out of 12 “No”s [meaning no law against corruption]) as being rather astoundingly corrupt. Russia is midway between those two, perhaps because after Yeltsin’s abominable rule, Putin cleaned up Russia’s Government, but a lot of that job still remains undone, even after 21 years.

Germany’s Government was more shaped by Truman than perhaps any in the world except America’s own Government. But, from the present indicator, America’s vassal nations would appear to be even more corrupt than the imperial center, the U.S., itself, is — at least insofar as their political campaign-finance laws (“what’s written in black and white” in the lawbooks) are concerned.

Here was the summary, specifically regarding Germany:

Following here will be answers that are solidly grounded in the written laws of each of these three countries (though not necessarily reflecting how those laws are enforced — or not), regarding the 12 most clearly important questions that were studied. I present those dozen questions in the order that seems to me to provide the clearest sequence in order for the reader to interpret them, not in the order that was employed by the source:

GERMANY

“8. Is there a ban on anonymous donations to candidates?” “There are no explicit provisions regarding donations to candidates.”

“2. Is there a ban on donations from foreign interests to candidates?” “There are no explicit provisions regarding donations to candidates.”

“18. Is there a limit on the amount a donor can contribute to a candidate?” “There are no explicit provisions regarding donations to candidates.”

“10. Is there a ban on donations from corporations with government contracts to candidates?” “There are no explicit provisions regarding donations to candidates.”

“4. Is there a ban on corporate donations to candidates?” “There are no explicit provisions regarding donations to candidates.”

“6. Is there a ban on donations from Trade Unions to candidates?” “There are no explicit provisions regarding donations to candidates.”

“5. Is there a ban on donations from Trade Unions to political parties?” “There are [is] no explicit … ban on donations from Trade Unions to political parties”

“3. Is there a ban on corporate donations to political parties?” “Ban on donation from corporate bodies, but accepted if it is a business enterprise, of whose shares more than 50 per cent of shares are owned by Germans …”

“9. Is there a ban on donations from corporations with government contracts to political parties?” “No.”

“14. Is there a limit on the amount a donor can contribute to a political party during a non-election specific period?” “No.”

“16. Is there a limit on the amount a donor can contribute to a political party during an election?” “No.”

“27. Are there provisions requiring donations to go through the banking system?” “No.”

Consequently, Brandner’s allegations might be expected to be true, simply because Germany, especially after the U.S. Government blew up the Russian gas pipelines to Germany and yet Germany’s Government continues to be a U.S. vassal-nation, despite that U.S. act of war against both Germany and Russia. This indicates Germany’s Government to be extremely corrupt, willing to ditch its own population in order to please its U.S. masters.

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Europe’s former imperial countries are now desperate U.S. colonies

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nord stream

India is no longer a colony of the UK, but Germany and other European countries have become — now quite obviously — colonies of the United States, and their economies will be financially bled by the world-bestriding U.S. imperialist center, just like the UK and other European nations had previously (and infamously) exploited India and its other colonies.

The U.S. Government’s having blown-up the Nord Stream gas pipelines from Russia to Europe — after years of efforts to sabotage them more subtly by other, more ‘diplomatic’ (but less permanent), means — will leave Europe permanently forced to pay vastly higher rates to America and other liquefied natural gas (LNG) suppliers, and no longer with even a hope of receiving the far less-expensive Russian gas, which, until recently, fueled so many European firms to international competitiveness. Now, there’s no longer even a hope for Europe to avoid sliding into the usual model of colonies, as being banana republics, of one sort or another.

It was so natural for Russia to be Europe’s main energy-supplier, because Russia is a part of Europe, on the same continent as the other European nations, and therefore could pipeline its energy to them, and Russia had a surfeit of energy while the other European nations had a surfeit of need for it. That’s the way international capitalism is supposed to function, but imperialistic capitalism is instead international fascism, and it survives and grows only by exploiting other nations. From now on, the European nations, other than Russia, will, for at least a long time (because those giant gas-pipelines have been destroyed) be paying the world’s highest prices for energy (containerized and shipped, instead of simply pipelined), and buying much of it from Europe’s imperial center, which is increasingly recognizable now as being Europe’s real enemy: America. They will be paying tribute to the emperor — the billionaires who control the USA. These are the puppet-masters behind “the free world” (as their ‘news’-media refer to it), which is actually the new international-fascist empire. As Barack Obama called it, America is “the one indisensable nation,” which means that all other nations (in this case, the ones in Europe) are “dispensable.” Now, these former imperial nations will finally get a taste of what it’s like to be a “dispensable nation.” 

Here are some of the key U.S. operatives in Europe, who managed this situation, for the U.S. owners — brought this situation about (before Joe Biden’s agents ultimately just pulled the plug on the whole operation):

Boris Johnson, Olaf Schulz, Annalena Baerbock, Robert Habeck, Ursula von der Leyen, Josep Borrell, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Jens Stoltenberg, Emmanuel Macron, Mario Draghi — and, of course, behind the scenes, the billionaires who funded those leaders’ political careers (via political donations, plus those billionaires’ news-media and their other mass-public-opinion-forming organizations). These key agents will no doubt be paid well, in their retirements, regardless of what the public might think of them after their ‘service to the public’ is over.

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Exporting Religious Hatred to England

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A mob vandalised a Hindu temple in UK's Leicester. Twitter

Not a place hitting the main news channels often, Leicester is a small town of 250,000 inhabitants about a hundred miles north of London and 40 miles east of Birmingham the UK’s second largest city.

But an imported ideology is now the cause of religious violence that has profoundly affected Leicester’s ethnic community of South Asians.  This Hindutva ideology represents a belief in the transcendence of Hinduism and its culture.

Leicester prides itself as a city of tolerance and diversity where different religions and races all live together in relative harmony — a sort of ‘live and let live and mind your own business’ philosophy that had worked until recently.  But under the surface simmering tensions burst forth recently.  The trigger was a South Asia Cup cricket match between Indian and Pakistan held in Dubai and won by India.

Couple Hindutva with India’s win and groups of Hindu young men were keen to demonstrate their might, and did so on isolated young Muslims.  The latter then formed their own groups ready for revenge.

Where were the police one might ask.  Well, a couple of beaten up Asian teenagers did not register as exhibiting anything more than random teenage violence.  They were slow to react and did not discuss the ominous truth of religion as the prime mover behind the violence.

Civic leaders on both sides are now trying to quell the attacks.  But the damage has been done and the seeds of ill-feeling have been sown within the community meaning Hindus vis-a-vis Muslims and vice versa. 

India’s per capita GDP is higher than for Pakistan or Bangladesh, the two countries bordering it, which together constitute the subcontinent.  Thus the three countries are similar culturally.  The next question to ask is why then is India hugging the bottom on the 2020 World Happiness Report, next to ill-fated war-torn places like Yemen.  India is ranked 144 while its rival and neighbor Pakistan, although lower in per capita GDP, ranks a shocking (for India) 66.  Bangladesh also ranks much higher than India at 107, despite its devastating floods and typhoons.

Perhaps the answer lies in the pervasive hate that is the currency of the ruling BJP (Bharatia Janata Party), a currency spent liberally during general elections to the detriment of the Congress Party, which has stood for a secular India since independence.

But hate yields more votes as BJP leaders Norendra Modi and Amit Shah know well.  After all, they came to power via the destruction of the historic nearly five century old Babri Mosque, built on a Hindu holy site in an effort to ally Hindus by an astute Babur, the Mughal whose hold on India, just wrested from the Muslim Pathan kings, was still weak.  It worked for Babur then; its destruction worked for the BJP in the 21st century

Has India become more civilized since? 

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