Where Is European Morality Headed?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

We have discussed, on this blog, the idea that a person’s religious beliefs and worldview have a direct effect on their moral behavior.  Worldviews not only affect people, but entire nations.  In the March 2009 publication of First Things, Jean Bethke Elshtain wrote a brilliant article which examines the decline of European morality.  Here is a powerful excerpt:

Over time human rights, now almost universally accepted among Europeans, will themselves come to be seen as so many arbitrary constructions that may, on utilitarian grounds, be revoked—because there is nothing intrinsic about human beings such that they are not to be ill-treated or violated or even killed. Even now, many do not want to be bothered with the infirm elderly or damaged infants, so we devise so-called humane ways to kill them and pretend that somehow they chose (or would have chosen) to die. Elderly patients are being killed in the Netherlands without their consent. A new protocol for euthanizing newborns with disabilities is institutionalized in the Netherlands, and the doctor who authored the protocols, Eduard Verhagen, tells us how “beautiful” it is when the newborns are killed, for, at last, they are at peace.

The Australian utilitarian Peter Singer predicts confidently that the superstition that human life is sacred will be definitively put to rest by 2040. It doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to suggest that by that moment “life unworthy of life” will routinely be destroyed—in the name of liberal humanitarianism and compassion, and even cost-effectiveness, rather than the triumph of a master race. It is a softer nihilism than the past’s, but it is nihilism all the same.

In an interview for a British magazine during the summer of 2005, Singer said that if he faced the quandary of saving from a raging fire either a mentally disabled child, an orphan child nobody wanted, or normal animals, he would save the animals. If the child had a mother who would be devastated by the child’s death, he would save the child, but unwanted orphans have no such value.

This is the entirely consistent result of the view that human life no longer possesses an innate dignity, that we are only meat walking around, and we can be turned easily into means to the ends of others, just as we may turn others into means to our ends. It is the old master-slave scenario come to life, even as we congratulate ourselves on our enlightenment.

Ideas matter, and Europe is headed down a depressing path.

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  • Hamcgee2000

    I am separated from my husband, Every now and then when we get together we have sex. Is this a sin in Gods eyes?

  • Hamcgee2000

    Is it a sin to get tattoo’s and if so, tell me where to find the bibical reference please.

  • Andrew Ryan

    I’d argue against the brilliance of the article you quote. It misrepresents Singer egregiously, therefore undermining it’s argument. Singer does not place a low value on life. Rather he probably values it significantly higher than the average person. Singer has written whole books arguing for man’s duty to help others, and backs it up by donating a significant proportion of his income to charity. Not to mention this reflects badly on the integrity of the article’s author.

  • sean

    I suppose I could agree with you here, but I don’t see how this advances Christianity in any way. Attempts were made in the name of Christianity to have slavery and to go on the Crusades. The idea that Europe may be headed down the wrong path, aside from not being an accurate portrayal of the facts, is irrelevant to whether we should believe in the Christian worldview, because either worldview can be interpreted to support horrible things. Stalin was an atheist, and Hitler was a Christian.