“Misplaced Faith”

The subtitle for this piece, posted yesterday at the Wall Street Journal site is “Why no one questioned the implications of bringing large Muslim populations into a secularizing West.”

That question, however, is only glancingly raised at the end of article, which is in fact a book review of “Sacred Causes” by Michael Burleigh. The book, accoding to reviewer William Anthony Hay, “tracks the fate of religious and secular forces in the 20th century, registering their collisions and their effects on the culture we live in today.”

That’s a rather tame line, so here is something a bit less so:

By undermining European stability, Mr. Burleigh notes, World War I created a space for radical alternatives to the bourgeois norms that had gone before. He shows how the Protestant middle classes in Germany, for instance, distanced themselves from their churches, viewing traditional religious observance as the remnant of a discredited past. Science and culture, along with militant nationalism, filled the role that churches had once played, and the pattern replicated itself beyond Germany. A traditional outlook gave way to cultural pessimism, intensifying throughout the 1920s.

In such a cultural atmosphere, Adolf Hitler emerged as a prophet of neo-paganism. Mr. Burleigh highlights the sheer weirdness of dropouts in Germany who seized upon social disruption to make their fortunes, playing to an apocalyptic mood and crying for a purifying upheaval. Once Hitler took power, the Nazi Party became a new civil religion.

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