The decline of religion in Europe frightens this stalwart atheist. “The Europeans have become very passive, all of them,” she said. “There’s a fatigued worldliness typical of Europe right now, and that’s why nothing very interesting artistically is coming out of there.”
Can you have a vibrant culture without cult? Traditionalist conservatives say no. Dr. Paglia is inclined to agree – and says that our lazy secularism and superficial religiosity puts America at risk of succumbing to acedia, the Greek term for spiritual slothfulness. She is shocked to discover how few of her college students grasp basic biblical concepts, characters and motifs that were commonly understood one or two generations ago. This stunning loss of cultural memory renders most Western art, poetry and literature opaque.
“The only people I’m getting at my school who recognize the Bible are African-Americans,” she said. “And the lower the social class of the white person, the more likely they recognize the Bible. Most of these white kids, if they go to church at all, they get feel-good social activism.”
What are they left with? “Video games, the Web, cellphones, iPods – that’s what’s left,” Dr. Paglia laments. “And that’s what’s going to make us vulnerable to people coming from any side, including the Muslim side, where there’s fervor. Fervor will conquer apathy. I don’t see how the generation trained by the Ivy League is going to have the knowledge or the resolution to defend the West.”
Dreher also refers to the comment of a Christian theologian that “unlike ages past, when it was most important for the church to preach the Good News to the world, our situation today in the West makes it more important for the church to focus on articulating its teachings, and its distinct way of seeing the world, to itself.”