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Secularists erase Christianity from European history

The recently opened House of European History in Brussels offers an account of Europe described by one writer as “both typically modern and emphatically French and socialist.”

House of European History in Parc Leopold, Brussels (Gor62/Wikipedia, January 2017)

Looking at things from this side of the Atlantic, it is easy to think of Europe as a single, united entity. Seen up close it’s not so clear. National identity keeps getting in the way.

French, German, Italian, Polish, and so on—those ancient identities still matter to many people. As arguably they should.

National identity bestows a sense of rootedness and continuity that the new European institutions apparently haven’t been able to supply up to now. A case in point: last year’s Brexit vote in Great Britain, shocking to the pundits, which took the country out of the European Union (or, more precisely, set that process in motion). Being English, it seems, still counts for more with the English than being European does.

Religious identity is also part of the equation—today, a disputed one. This relationship once seemed overwhelmingly clear to someone like the Catholic apologist Hilaire Belloc, who famously wrote: “Europe will return to the Faith, or she will perish. The Faith is Europe, and Europe is the Faith.”

Today’s secularized Europeans obviously aren’t buying that. Yet if they’re honest, many would agree that it’s a species of historical blindness to ignore the role played by Christianity in shaping Europe—both the Europe of the nations and Europe as a whole—not only in the past but also now.

Yet ignore it some do. An institution that opened its doors in Brussels last spring stands as a kind of monument to that.

It’s called the House of European History. Situated in a former dental museum close to the European parliament (of which it’s a project) and other European institutions, the House of European History offers an account of Europe described by one writer as “both typically modern and emphatically French and socialist.”

Here, reports Arnold Huijgen, writing at Acton Institute online, “the French Revolution seems to be the birthplace of Europe; and there is little room for anything that may have preceded it.” In this narrative, the European Union itself is “the high point of European history,” he notes.

But, says Huijgen, a professor at a Reformed Church theological school in The Netherlands, what’s most striking about the House of European History’s vision of European history is that “religion does not exist….No longer is European secularism fighting the Christian religion; it simply ignores every religious aspect in life altogether.”

This is hardly new. On the contrary, it’s been taking shape for many years. The erasure of religion from a museum of European history reminds me of a telling observation by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran theologian whom the Nazis executed shortly before the end of the war for his involvement in a plot against Hitler.

In his unfinished, fragmentary, powerful Ethics, he identified the “new unity” introduced into Europe by the French Revolution in place of the old Christian unity shattered by the events surrounding the Reformation as a unity in “western godlessness.”

“It is not the theoretical denial of the existence of a God. It is itself a religion, a religion of hostility to God,” Bonhoeffer wrote, adding that this modern godlessness “ranges from the religion of Bolshevism to the midst of the Christian churches.”

No more can secular Europe ignore the formative role of religion than it can ignore the national identities within it. Pope Francis speaks of Europe as having a “spiritual patrimony” that needs communicating to Europeans themselves with “passion and a renewed freshness.” He was right. But where is that happening now? Not in Brussels, unfortunately.

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About Russell Shaw 295 Articles
Russell Shaw was secretary for public affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference from 1969 to 1987. He is the author of 20 books, including Nothing to Hide, American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America, Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity, and, most recently, The Life of Jesus Christ (Our Sunday Visitor, 2021).


  1. [Pope Francis speaks of Europe as having a “spiritual patrimony” that needs communicating to Europeans themselves with “passion and a renewed freshness.”]

    The blame is to be put on the European bishops, including the current bishop of Rome.

  2. The French Revolution was the death knell of Monarchical Europe to Govt by plebiscite. It was the prototype of the Bolshevik Revolution. The former deeply influenced by Rousseau’s secular idealism [Robespierre kept the Emile under his pillow] created the contemporary irreligious self sufficient independent European. The historically selective House of European History. Licence Egalitarianism Prejudice have replaced Liberty Equality Fraternity. Catholics in similarity to Robespierre’s Reign of Terror premise that “All citoeyens have equal rights, but not all are citoeyens” are today’s non citoeyen victims of the new Reign of secular humanist terror. European secularists should ask whether the concepts liberty equality fraternity existed anywhere prior to the advent of Christianity. They’re concepts borrowed from Christianity. Karl Marx atheist and opponent of God did likewise. Hijacked Christ’s teachings on sharing goods, fraternity, equal justice and secularized them shifting worship of Deity to worship of the materialistic state. The men occupying The House of European History are perhaps worse. Because the underlying premise of secular humanism is self deification. And if one presumes himself a deity the’re are no limits to his depravity.

  3. The picture shows a bleak looking building reminiscent of Soviet style architecture.
    Sadly this HEH project looks like an exercise in vanity and self delusion by EU social engineers and at a cost of £137m doesn’t seem good value for money.
    A contrived history that has a year zero of 1946 deserves a limited future

  4. The European project is looking more and more like a modern Tower of Babel, where secular Europe is trying to make a name, a shem, for themselves.

  5. I think it is clear that the classic oath for witnesses in the courtroom says it all: “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” This is based on the fact that leaving out part of the truth can lead to the triumph of a lie, and this is precisely the purpose of the Father of Lies and his mislead slaves. That is why in this hundredth anniversary of Fatima, it is worth remembering that is spite of all this, Our Lady did promise that her Immaculate Heart would triumph. Let’s give her a hand with prayer rather than watching on the sidelines as passive spectators of history.

  6. When a man is not enthralled by Christ, he is incapable of being passionate about Christianity.

    Take for example Pope F’s favorite theologian the “retired” Cdl. Kasper, who has for his entire “ministry” denied the miracles of Christ testified in the Gospels. (Kasper, Jesus the Christ, 1st Ed 1976; 2nd ed. 2011.)

    Kasper is “theology on its knees” says Francis.

    Given the extent of Kasper’s “passion” for Christ, one might not wonder why German Catholics don’t “bother” going to Mass. I mean – it’s not like Jesus could command the wind and sea or something.

  7. if the decline in the birthrate does not inform catholics, especially bishops, that the faith is disappearing, nothing will. unless and until the bishops once again champion humanae vitae and effectively explain its importance, the faith will not revitalize.

    it is kind of like here in america where the concept of modesty in dress by women is no longer taught. explaining the lack of charity in immodest dress is an elemental aspect of following Jesus. but now, even at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, many women dress in sexually provocative ways. such dress is extremely uncharitable and i have concluded that our priests and catholic schools are failing to give our young women an adequate understanding of both human sexuality and christian charity.

    • Immodesty is also infantile.

      Modesty is adult behavior.

      I once had to explain this to a young lady who was protesting that insisting on modesty was treating “young adults” like children.

      I had to explain that we dress children modestly not because we are modeling childhood behavior, but we are modeling adult behavior for them.

      It is only the “global Kim Kardashian cult” that believes that profaning your own body is a mark of “adulthood.”

      Sort of like the meaning of “adult” as used by porno marketing.

  8. The “House” itself is an ugly manifestation of the decadence of the present European elites and also the masses. The European elites deem to be falling head over heels over Islam, which intends to wipe them out.

  9. Not surprising they are erasing religion. The EU started by erasing recognizable historical buildings, many with religious connections, when the for printed the common currency. Instead they placed soulless, generic creations as a sign of unity. It would appear that descent into the new paganism should also be a act of unity.

  10. Lol, you guys really are vying for world domination. That’s straight up supervillain stuff. Maybe you guys should, y’know, chill? Stop attacking literally everyone who doesn’t bow to your silly little superstitions? Just a thought. Otherwise you’ll continue to be removed from society. Just how it is. Nobody likes bullies.

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