First Things: Anti-Christianity in France

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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18 Responses

  1. Rufus F. says:

    Well, the Church fairly well held its own against the Hugenots. And more than held its own against the Cathars.Report

  2. J_A says:

    Most people in the USA don’t have a real grasp of the love/hate relationship that European Catholics and Latin Americans have with the Catholic Church.

    In my experience, curiously, only the Italians have a different attitude towards the Church. I once read a Spanish philosopher attributing this to the closeness the Italians have had for centuries with the institutional Church, which has bred a healthy level of cynicism.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to J_A says:

      Ireland and Poland are more towards the love side of the Catholic Church than the hate side because Roman Catholicism preserved national identity for a little over a century for both for them. The Communist Party in Poland didn’t launch on atheist campaign like other Communist countries did because they thought it wouldn’t really work and it was easier to let people go to church.

      Most Americans really don’t have a firm grasp on how secular most White Europeans are compared to the United States. The number of people who don’t identify with any particular religion in the United States is growing fast but the Europeans got their earlier and faster. Even during the 19th century, many Europeans did not go to church on a regular basis and might not have even baptized their kids or gotten married in a church. By the mid-20th century, secularism was firmly in place with the United Kingdom being one of the last holdouts with regular religious practice.

      There was something in the European cultural temperament that was probably inherited from the Greeks and Romans that preserved the spirit of irreverence and skepticism. Even at its most religious, Europeans could be less religious as a whole than other populations except maybe the East Asian civilizations influenced by Confucianism. I think even during the Renaissance and Early Modern eras, when Catholics and Protestants were hacking each other to pieces, there were some Europeans that defined themselves as not religious. By the 18th century many intellectuals saw themselves as deists, agnostics, and atheists. Large swathes of political opinion were against all religion from the 19th century onwards.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

        There was something in the European cultural temperament that was probably inherited from the Greeks and Romans that preserved the spirit of irreverence and skepticism

        I dunno.I’d say that the centuries of warfare over a chunk of Europe plus the established state churches (which ended up, as monarchy gave way to democracy, not so much giving the government divine right as smearing the church with the general mundane nature of government) might also have something to do with it.

        America, despite some good efforts on a few parts, more or less avoided a ton of religious strife between Christian sects AND didn’t end up with a state church. We still have plenty of political “X isn’t really a Christian” sneering at politicians, but there’s not a specific church they all have to join to be a ‘good American’. (Just a church in general).

        I think it’s interesting that as the evangelical and fundamentalist both consolidated and got more openly involved in partisan politics, the number of ‘non-believers’ in America started to rise.

        Excessive entanglement with the State seems to damage the Church more than anything else.Report

        • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Morat20 says:

          I think I agree with this. I also think we should distinguish between anti-clericalism and anti-religiosity/anti-Christianity. The two are probably related and seem to have fed each other in Europe, but they don’t always work in tandem.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Morat20 says:

          Islam and Buddhism arejust as entwined with government as entwined with the state as Christianity was. They aren’t really that more peaceful in those areas. There doesn’t seem to be the same level of skepticism.Report

          • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:

            I guess there are two points here.

            First, Morat’s point holds true, in my opinion, for Europe and America.

            Second, there’s a lot we don’t know about Muslim and Buddhist cultures and their history. By “we” I mean you and I. I assume you know more than I do, but neither of us is a scholar of Islam or Buddhism (I’m not a scholar of western religions, either, but I know more about them and their history than I do about Islam). Maybe there is and has been a persistent anti-clericalism in Muslim majority countries and you and I are missing it. Maybe there’s a third (or fourth, or fifth….) factor that while absent in Europe and the US operates to keep in check anti-clericalism. Or…maybe what seems to be true in Iran doesn’t hold true in Indonesia, or holds true only to a lesser degree.

            My point number two is not at all a refutation of what you’ve said here in this thread or elsewhere. I’m just not ready to sign on because I don’t know enough. And not knowing enough, I feel compelled to operate under certain presumptions. One of those presumptions is to resist what appears to me on first blush to be a generalization that strikes me as derogatory to hundreds of millions of people. Now, I admit I may be wrong. And while I suspect your own analyses might be too sweeping, I also realize you’re not condemning “hundreds of millions” of people, but just noting historical processes as you honestly see them.Report

            • pillsy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

              I’m no scholar of religion, history, or religious history either, but I’m of the distinct impression that sentiments similar to what we call “anti-clericalism” have been periodically directed at Buddhist monks in China, and certainly the Chinese Communists were no fan of religion.Report

            • El Muneco in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

              No more a scholar than anyone else…

              The impression that I get is that when anti-clericalism does arise in Islam, the sect in question either begins acquiring other heretical doctrines, drifting toward becoming no-longer-Islam. Or is prosecuted for the original heresy and becomes no-longer-breathing.Report

            • Mo in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

              My, admittedly limited, observations of Islam in Islamic countries is that there’s a lot more skepticism than advertised, but because of a combination of authoritarian regimes in the region and the more extreme responses to heresy, it’s much more on the DL than it is in the West. Much of the revival in the last few decades was a form of cultural wagon circling due to perceived attacks from the West and Islam being the common cultural language. Sort of like how far right candidates in the West wrap themselves in the cloak of Christianity to contrast themselves with Islam (see: Putin as the protector of Christianity in Russia)Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mo says:

                Iran has “Not Beer” — it is their favorite brand of alcohol.
                DL is one thing in Iran, where it’s middle class.
                DL is VERY DIFFERENT in Saudi Arabia, where it’s strictly upper class.Report

  3. But [Napoleon] also granted official recognition to Protestants and Jews so as better to control them.

    We preferred second-class status and the occasional massacre. It was so much freer.Report

    • I didn’t read the entire article, but it seems like the author is arguing about Napoleon’s motivation, not about whether official recognition is right or wrong.

      And while I’m certainly no expert on the issue, it seems to me that “official recognition” is the type of thing that comes with strings attached. One has to meet certain criteria to be part of the “officially” recognized group, and the recognizer is the ultimate arbiter of who that is, even if he/she vests the everyday determination in a synod or whatever. That can operate as a form of control.

      Not that you’re wrong. It’s almost definitely the case that “official recognition” is better than second-class status. (My only hesitation has to do with Hannah Arendt’s argument that Jewish emancipation helped set the stage for the later persecution of Jews. I’m not sure I’m reading her argument right, and I’m not sure I agree with her if I am, but it’s something to consider.)Report

  4. Catholics were once more on the wrong side in the Dreyfus affair

    Germans came back in 1940 and brought about the archconservative anti-Semitic Vichy régime, which many clergy and faithful welcomed

    Remind me not to ask Duchesne to defend me.Report

  5. Francis says:

    Personal anecdote: Both my uncles fought for France in WWII. One was a tanker who was captured in the initial blitzkrieg and spent the war in a POW camp; one was a sailor who racked up an amazing collection of medals serving in the Free French Navy but never spoke about the war. They were both officers and came from an upper middle class family.

    Both were Catholic. And both were unapologetically racist (against blacks) and anti-Semitic. These weren’t the sole issues that defined their political stance; they didn’t vote for the hard-right parties. But they definitely had a vision of France that was white and culturally Christian and largely anti-immigrant.Report

  6. After the baptism of the Frankish king Clovis by bishop Rémi of Reims in 496 A.D. (considered the birth of the nation)

    Really? Here’s a map of Clovis’s kingdom in 496. It includes the low countries, a slice of northern France, and another slice of western Germany. (The Franks would go on to conquer the rest of France, almost all of western Germany, northern Italy, and parts of what’s now Austria and Spain.) . The first polity that can reasonably called France was the territory ruled by Charles the Bald after the Treaty of Verdun in 843.Report

  7. 360 frontal says:

    reu! 360 frontal parfait, satisfaite, envoi agile, très servante contrat, merciReport