Worldviews and the Building of Cathedrals – and Civilisations

Worldviews and the Building of Cathedrals – and Civilisations

When a people have hope and a brighter view of the future (including the next life), that can result in all sorts of long-term projects being engaged in – even ongoing work on civilisations as well. Certainly the Christian church of two millennia ago helped to give birth to Western civilisation.

In good measure your view of life will determine what you do – or don’t do. If you have a very bleak and gloomy worldview or philosophy, you may not be too keen to invest time and energy into much of anything, be it building a new home or working on some other long-term project.

On the other hand, if you have a more optimistic and hopeful view of things, including the future, you might be more inclined to engage in such activities. Yes, these are generalities, but this can be true of both believers and nonbelievers. Your perspective on life can well determine what you do with it.

Consider for a moment the non-Christian. We know that for the most part religious people – including Christians – tend to have more children than non-religious folks. Larger families are not the sole domain of the religious, but generally this is true – as research affirms. Atheists for example tend to have far fewer children:

If a secular person thinks this life is all there is, and they are consumed with fear and worry about all manner of things – be it covid or climate change or overpopulation or whatever the latest scare is – they will be less keen on bringing about the next generation. ‘We are all doomed – we are all gonna die.’ If so, why bother having kids?

There is a real connection in other words between faith and demographics. Over a decade ago an important book appeared by the economist and political commentator David Goldman. Called How Civilizations Die (Regnery, 2011), it looks at how cultures – just like people – can die from a loss of hope and a loss of a sense of meaning and purpose. At the time I wrote this about it:

Says Goldman, “A good deal of the world seems to have lost the taste for life . . . Today’s cultures are dying of apathy, not by the swords of their enemies.” The degree of religious faith and human hope determine how nations fare. The more secular a nation is, the more likely its fertility rates will be plummeting.

A purely secular analysis will simply not do here: “Our strategic thinking suffers from a failure to take into account the existential problems of other nations. We think in the narrow categories of geopolitics, but we need to study theopolitics – the powerful impact of religious beliefs and aspirations on world events.”

I write all this because of a meme I recently found online. It shows a picture of the magnificent Cologne Cathedral in Germany and says this:

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