I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said--"Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert....Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."
By Percy Shelley
We are witnessing the death of a civilization. Journalist Mark Styen has predicted that, “Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries.”1 Charles Krauthammer came to an similar conclusion in a Time Magazine article in 2005 where he stated, “France . . . is an aged and exhausted civilization, the hollowed-out core of European Christendom, static, aging, contented, coddled, passive and literally without faith. The old French, like the rest of Europe, are literally disappearing.”2 Patrick J. Buchanan has claimed, “A civilization, a culture, a faith, and a moral order rooted in that faith are passing away . . .”3 Many people might find this proposition absurd. The “death of the West” has been predicted for generations. Yet the power, influence and even vitality of the West appear to be at their zenith. What are the factors that lead Styen and other to conclude that we are rapidly nearing the end of Western civilization?
The symptoms of decline have been diagnosed by many historians. The most important of these are, a loss of religious faith, a decline in demographics, a coarsening of morality and an influx of outsiders. Perhaps the most important of these symptoms is the loss of religious faith. Orientalist Franz Cumont, writing in 1906 at the apex of Western civilization, wrote:
Let us suppose that in modern Europe the faithful had deserted the Christian churches to worship Allah or Brahma; let us imagine a great confusion of all the races of the world in which Arabian mullahs, Chinese scholars, Japanese bonzes, Tibetan lamas and Hindu pundits would be preaching fatalism and predestination, ancestor-worship and devotion to a deified sovereign, pessimism and deliverance through annihilation - a confusion in which all those priests would erect temples of exotic architecture in our cities and celebrate their disparate rites therein. Such a dream, which the future may perhaps realize, would offer a pretty accurate picture of the religious chaos in which the ancient world was struggling before the reign of Constantine. 4
Civilizations are organized around an idea. As T. S. Eliot has asserted, “no culture has appeared or developed except together with a religion.”5 When that organizing idea loses its vitality the society based upon it is in jeopardy.
There has been an effort, beginning with the Enlightenment, to organize Western societies along another set of ideas. The proponents of these “enlightenment” ideas claim that they are rational and based upon scientific proofs. In their zeal to promote these enlightenment ideas they have frequently been overcome with a desire to destroy traditional institutions, seeing in them the obstacle to fulfillment of their dream. Many of them have come to identify all western traditions and customs as the enemy.
1.The New Criterion THE CENTURY AHEAD It's the Demography, Stupid The real reason the West is in danger of extinction. BY MARK STEYN, January 4, 2006
2. Time Magazine, November 21, 2005, p. 162
3. The Death of the West, Patrick J. Buchanan, Thomas Dunne Books, New York, 2002, p. 9
4. Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism, p. 197
5. Christianity and Culture, T.S. Eliot, Harcourt Brace & company, San Diego, 1948, p. 87