European Union and Religion

Since ancient times, religion has played a crucial role in the life of people and their moral values. The 20th century and democratic relations changed these issues and marked a new era in secular relations. Many of a society’s attitudes toward humanity and the environment tend to be embodied in its religions. Throughout the industrial revolution, the West was in the grip of an orthodoxy that put work, material gain, and exploitation of the environment among its highest goals. The world was thought to exist for mankind’s benefit alone, to be populated and exploited by the cleverest and hardest-working individuals (Berger 1). Inequity was justified by envisioning a lovely Heaven where the poor and meek could look forward to their reward. Today, some progressive changes can already be detected in some of our religious institutions with respect to population, and among younger clergy, there seems to be a healthy trend towards human rather than material values. The role of religion in European integration is highly sensitive and very important because it deals with unique values and beliefs shared and valued by millions of people. Integration unites people. Thus it cannot reject or level religious differences; it cannot codify and unify them.

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The question of religion in the European integration is very sensitive because it is impossible to change or level religious traditions and values. Sociologists agree with anthropologists and historians that a common religious heritage shaped the development of common values in Europe, but the question that particularly interests them is the extent to which religion has been replaced by secularism. If secularism is the norm, then a related question concerns the continued relevance of values that arose from religion. Many indicators support the change to secularism. Attendance at church services, participation in religious rituals, membership in a church all show a decline; on the other hand, beliefs in the moral precepts of religion continue to hold firm. Subsidiarity is strongly linked to Catholic doctrine, but it also shows the influences of Continental liberalism (Congdon, p. 33). During the nineteenth century, when the industrial revolution resulted in new social classes, labour unions, and philosophies, Catholic theologians sought to come to terms with the new social order. They had an organic view of society in contrast to the individualistic view which prevailed in Great Britain. They wrote about just relationships among the actors in the industrial revolution and urged cooperation and restraint. Catholic political parties and labour unions came into existence during the industrial revolution. They also find that people in the EC are facing common social problems, many of which are caused by developments outside national borders (Berting 127). Common problems may compel Europeans to seek common solutions, thereby strengthening European society, but sociologists warn against optimism about such common solutions. If European society is a mosaic of overlapping patterns, then common solutions may not be acceptable even to common problems. Both the Germans and the British want their welfare systems repaired, but neither would accept a solution crafted on the system of the other (Asselborn, p. 26).

The role of the COMECE is to monitor and control religious principles and respond effectively to new social and political changes. “The COMECE Secretariat monitors the work of the European Convention and the debate on the future of Europe closely. This is done in close ecumenical co-operation with the Commission for Church and Society of the Conference of European Churches and other Church-related organizations” (COMECE 2008). Of course, a change in religious attitudes will hardly suffice to bring about the required changes in society. The hard realities of overpopulation and fragile environmental systems must be communicated, comprehended, and translated into a commitment to constructive action. The change in cultural philosophy that religion can help provide must be accompanied by a revolution in education (Statements on Public Issues 401).

Some Europeans have believed that Europe should unify religion, and they have proposed plans for unification. They assumed that a unifying strand of history runs through Europe and that the appropriate kinds of institutions could nurture it. The findings of sociologists and scholars of political culture give support to those assumptions. Societies are malleable, and careful public actions can strengthen them (Weber, 21). The European Community is heir to that strand of European history. Its founders believed that a Europe of common values and principles exists and that common institution are necessary to protect and assist Europeans. The question which remains to be answered is whether European society has enough commonalities to allow for common actions to meet common needs. The answer rests with subsidiarity, a vague and difficult concept. The Treaty on European Union mandates common action insensitive social areas (Who Dares Tell the Story about What Europe 4). The principle of subsidiarity stipulates that EC actions do not intrude on effective local or national policies. If boundaries can be marked and the EC implements successful social policies, we may see the development of legitimacy based on achievement (Kaiser, p. 43).

There are cases in which, acting as the representative of, and with the authority of, the whole Church, a priest may be compelled to impose a discipline upon a fellow Christian for gross breach of the Christian law. Similarly, there are cases in which, in his official capacity, as the representative of and with the authority of the community, a judge may pass judgment in the name of the civil law. But no Christian should take upon himself as a private individual the profound responsibility of passing judgment upon his fellow men (Hogan 154). This, however, does not mean that he is to exercise a similar degree of restraint in his own case. The Christian should not excuse moral lapses in himself by the easy use of the argument that he may be suffering from possible glandular deficiencies. It is not our duty to be over-harsh with ourselves, and the “scrupulous conscience” is a spiritual disease well known to moral theologians; but the Christian must examine himself and be ready to admit, and Endeavour to correct, those faults which a frank and sincere self-examination reveals to him (Weber, p. 21).

In sum, religion has a great impact on the life of citizens and their values. Religion remains a very sensitive question as it touches the feelings and morals of people, their rights and identity. The Christian ideal is that every man should do his best to serve God with those characteristics and attributes which he happens to possess. If he is born with an incurably over-developed suprarenal gland, it may well happen that, as a consequence, he shows a great tendency to anger and irritability. This is something which he cannot avoid and which is part of the condition to which he was predestined. But he should recognize this tendency in himself, do what he can to remedy it by medical and physiological means, and, if these are unavailing, should endeavour to control it or to direct its energy into right paths, at the same time realizing that he will never succeed in doing this in his own strength, but only with the help of God and through the spiritual power which comes through contact with God in faith and prayer. It is impossible to integrate different religions and morals values, so the task of COMECE is to establish a dialogue and communicate with other religions and nations.

Works Cited

  1. Asselborn, J. 2006, An Unwarranted Pessimism: Rethinking the European Integration Debate. Harvard International Review, 28, p. 26.
  2. Berger, P. L. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. Anchor, 1990.
  3. Berting, J. 2006, Uniting Europeans by Values: A Feasible Enterprise? European Journal of Social Quality, 6, p. 127.
  4. Congdon, R.R. The European Union and the Supra-Religion. Xulon Press, 2007.
  5. COMECE.
  6. Hogan, L. May, J. Social Ethics in Western Europe. Theological Studies, 68 (2007), 154.
  7. Kaiser, W. Christian Democracy and the Origins of European Union (New Studies in European History). Cambridge University Press; 1 edition, 2007.
  8. Statements on Public Issues. The Ecumenical Review, 55 (2003), 401.
  9. Weber, M., The Sociology of Religion. Beacon Press, 1993.
  10. Who Dares Tell the Story about What Europe Has Done for Us? New Statesman, 136, 2007, p. 4.
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