In This Review

Is Europe Christian?
Is Europe Christian?
By Olivier Roy. Translated by Cynthia Schoch
Oxford University Press, 2020, 112 pp
Purchase

This book, widely discussed when it first appeared in French, critiques the notion that Europe is fundamentally Christian, an idea in vogue in far-right populist rhetoric. The author is a specialist in Islamic culture but also—tellingly, given the book’s short length, thin documentation, and occasional factual lapses—a celebrated French public intellectual. He grabbed headlines in the past for arguing, convincingly, that Islamist terrorism has little to do with Islam. Here, he effortlessly skewers the pieties surrounding the idea of a Christian Europe, insisting that the continent today is extremely secular and multicultural and that most right-wing nationalists ignore or reject Christian teachings on sex, abortion, and the role of women. Why have calls for a Christian Europe gained such traction? His provocative answer is that since the 1960s, a “totalitarian” left has foisted on European countries a political correctness comprised of libertarianism, hedonism, and the marginalization of the church. Right-wing populists appeal to Christianity to rebel against this discourse. But since they are not actually religious, they wind up simply reinforcing the “dechristianization” of Europe by draining meaning from the symbols of Christianity. Unfortunately, the book ends with just a single paragraph on how to rebalance secular and religious values.