Friday, November 23, 2012

How Civilizations Die

“Religion is not so much a reflection of the life of a community, as it is the means by which the community seeks a life beyond its temporal existence. At the heart of religion is the encounter with mortality.

Secular political science reduces religion to a belief-structure. But to people of faith, religion is not an ideology, but a life-or-death commitment. The believer stakes his or her life on the hope of conquering death.

Religious communities that forget this- mainline Protestants, Reform Jews, and liberal Catholics –fade away in a generation or two. These questions seem primitive to the modern profession of political science, whose experts consider themselves superior to the obscure debates of the theologians and the enthusiasm of the faithful.

Despite the political scientists, though, communities and nations continue to define themselves by what they hold sacred, and when nothing more is sacred, they lose their reason for being… ----Small civilizations perish for any number of reasons, but great civilizations die only when they no longer want to live…

Greek civilization lost its will to live, prefiguring the condition of Europe today…Our best source on the declining Greece that failed to resist Rome is Polybius (220-146 B.C.), a prominent Greek general who became a tutor to the future conqueror of Carthage.. Meditating on the cause of his nation’s fall to Rome, Polybius blames the Greeks’ refusal to raise children:

‘In our time all Greece was visited by a dearth of children and generally a decay of population, owing to which cities were denuded of inhabitants, and a failure of productiveness resulted, though there were no long-continued wars or serious pestilence among us…For this evil grew upon us rapidly, and without attracting attention, by our men becoming perverted to a passion for show and money and the pleasures of an idle life, and accordingly not marrying at all, or, if they did marry, refusing to rear the children that were born, or most one or two out of a greater number, for the sake of leaving them well off or bringing them up in extravagant luxury…’”

-David P. Goldman, How Civilizations Die (and why Islam is dying too) 2011