For centuries, Europe was essentially "ruled" by Catholic and Protestant Christianity—if not in a direct, civil sense, then at least in a cultural sense. Religion was at the core of society, and the various governments could not dismiss the opinion of the churches as they do now. But the Europe of the past few decades has honestly earned the label of "that vast plain of irreligion." Secular humanism is the dominant religion now, after 1,500 years of nominal Christian supremacy. How did this change take place?
While the secularization of the West has gradually developed, and a number of factors have contributed to it, blame can be laid at the feet of liberal—heretical—Christianity. Lawrence Auster, in an analysis titled "How Liberal Christianity Promotes Open Borders and One-Worldism" (FrontPageMagazine.com, December 3, 2004), posits that multiculturalism, mass immigration, and even secular humanism, to a degree, can be seen as natural outgrowths of false doctrine within Christianity. He states that when the liberal order began in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it was not altogether hostile to religion. Rather, liberalism "marked out a religiously neutral public space where religious conformity would not be demanded and a person's religion could not be used against him." However, as the demand for individual freedom became "ever more insistent and far-reaching, the respect accorded [Christianity] and religious morality . . . steadily diminished."
This leftward tilt did not leave the mainline Protestant and Catholic churches unscathed:
No longer looking for the meaning of life in God and Christ, but in the celebration and achievement of human rights and equality—or, rather, defining God and Christ in terms of human rights and equality—these liberal Christians tend to look at every issue through the lens of social justice, one-worldism, . . . and are deeply committed to diversity, multiculturalism, and open borders. The liberal belief in the equal freedom of all human beings as the primary political and spiritual datum leads inexorably to the idea that [any] nation should open itself indiscriminately to all humanity.
In Europe, along with defining God and Christ in terms of human rights and equality, the Left sought to "create a new, materialistic society in which all human needs would be met without reference to anything higher than man." As mankind continued to develop technologically, and as "the belief in man's spiritual and material autonomy" became deeply entrenched, by the mid-twentieth century, much of Christianity felt pressured to "adjust itself to these new developments instead of condemning them."
This drive was more or less formally accepted by the Second Vatican Council. In his closing speech in December 1965, Pope Paul VI told the Council:
[The Church] was also much concerned with man, with man as he really is today, with living man, with man totally taken up with himself, with man who not only makes himself the center of his own interests, but who dares to claim that he is the principle and [the] final cause of all reality. Man in his phenomenal totality . . . presented himself, as it were, before the assembly of the Council Fathers. . . . The religion of God-made man has come up against the religion—for there is such a one—of man who makes himself God. [Emphasis added throughout.]
Instead of condemning the institution of "man who makes himself God," the Council, according to the Pope:
was filled only with an endless sympathy. The discovery of human needs—and these are so much greater now that the son of the earth has made himself greater—absorbed the attention of the Synod. . . . [W]e also, we more than anyone else, have the cult of man. . . .
Since Vatican II, all of the Popes, including John Paul II, have helped the "cult of man" to spread to most areas of liberal Christianity. In place of the Creed, which begins, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth," a diocese in France sings a hymn that begins: "I believe in God who believes in Man." In another diocese, instead of the Creed a poem is read which begins:
I believe in me—son of an almighty Father,
Creator with him of a more human world. . .
I believe in me because he believed in me. . . .
Thus we see humanism—a "system of thought that centers on humans and their values, capacities, and worth" (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)—alive and well within Christianity. Even the common Protestant cliché, "Jesus loves you," while correct, focuses on man rather than God's worthiness of worship. Humanism has definitely existed within mainline Christianity for a century or more, but it has been theological humanism. Only recently has its cousin, secular humanism, gained prominence. Mankind has been worshipping itself for a long time, but has only recently decided to drop the mention of God altogether. Humanism has transformed a nominally Christian culture into one that has no place even for the mention of God.