‘The Souls of Europe’

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How should Europe deal politically with its legacy as a so-called ‘Christian civilization’? Should this imply an overt reference to God or to the Christian or Judeo-Christian tradition in European constitutional documents (as was debated when the so called ‘Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe’ was tabled)? This debate raised the old “politico-theological problem”: does a political order need some kind of metaphysical or religious grounding, a “soul”, or can it present itself as a purely rational order, the result of a utilitarian calculus? In this article it is argued that the secular idea of the state is an inherent element in the “Judeo-Christian tradition”, for a “divine state” usurps a place that is only God’s. So this religious tradition itself calls for a secular state, and this inherent relationship between religion and secularity has become a key element for the interpretation of European civilization, most notably in the idea of a separation of church and state. But the very fact that this is a religious idea, does imply that the European political order cannot be seen as a purely rational political order, without a soul. The idea of a “plural soul” is proposed as a way out of the dilemma.

Keywords: Europe, European civilization, religion, Judeo-Christian tradition, political order, secularity
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-139
Number of pages14
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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