Pro-EU Catholic Europe vs. anti-EU Protestant Europe

Quebecoise

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In a book that came out a couple of years ago, Religion and the Struggle for European Union | Georgetown University Press American political scientists Brent Nelson and James Guth contended that the Reformation and the subsequent wars of religion fractured Europe politically and this religious fracturing still resounds today in attitudes towards the EU. Catholics fought against this political fracturing, remaining committed to a unified Europe of Latin Christendom. At the same time, Protestants found refuge and security behind the borders of the new European nation-states. Protestant national identities were forged in a battle with Catholic Europe, and as such have historically viewed a united Europe as oppressive and dangerous. Their national identities were constructed in opposition to a Catholic Europe, to protect a chosen people from a universalist “other”. Northern Protestant Europe (mainly Britain and Scandinavia) continued to view continental Europe as culturally and politically foreign (i.e. Catholic, undemocratic and backward). Even Turkish president Erdogan said back in 1992 that “the EU’s real name is Union of Catholic Christian States.”

Nelson and Guth have examined poll numbers over the years which showed that devout Catholics were some of the strongest supporters for a closer European union. They conclude that the Reformation still weighs heavy in Northern Protestant Europe and that the phrase “ever closer union” is still viewed as a threat and not a dream.

Considering Ireland’s history and the fact that it was used as a laboratory for religious war between Protestant Britain and Catholic Europe, is there any truth to the claim that Catholic national cultures are more pro-EU than Protestant ones?
 


Lumpy Talbot

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Couple of problems with the theory in that a catholic versus protestant divide hardly explains the founding group of countries which included the Benelux group which was Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. If memory serves Netherlands at least would have been at least nominally a majority protestant if you just go by the label on the historical and cultural tin whereas Luxembourg would have been catholic historically I suspect.

France and Germany in historical terms would have been a mixture of catholic and predominantly lutheran.

I'd be a bit suspicious of the conclusions arrived at by the two American gents as there is a love of simplicity in the states and there is also the tendency on that side of the Atlantic to see things through the lens of religion without an understanding of the many subtleties in European relations.

I could just as easily draw up a theory that the union of states in the US came into conflict with Mexico because of religious differences which would be to miss a panoply of other signals such as natural lebensraum in Texas and Californian states.

The predominant mover behind the development of the European union was in fact an attempt to prevent future war between Germany and France via a series of economic deals around coal mining which sought to intertwine the two countries' interests and there again there was at least nominally two separate religious groupings.

To say that anti-European feeling is predominantly protestant, culturally, doesn't actually fit with perceptions around Northern Ireland for example where the communities don't break down across sectarian lines in support or opposition to Europe as far as I am aware.

I'd say beware of both Trojans bearing gifts and American gentlemen bearing searing insights about Europe based in a distinctly American way of viewing history.
 

Dame_Enda

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I've always believed this to be true.

I think coming from a Catholic background, we are more comfortable with the concept of global-institutions because of being used to a global Church. I would not be surprised if a lot of the no voters on EU referendums are lapsed Catholics or people of "No Religion".

Personally I was pro-EU until the mass immigration after Enlargement. My attitude now is "engage but beware".

However polls in recent years have shown that despite traditional Euroscepticism in Sweden and Denmark, and growth of anti immigration parties, that majorities in these countries now support EU membership. It comes I think from a realisation that unlike the UK, small countries will have no influence outside the EU in international trade or diplomacy. In Irelands case I think we could survive by cosying up more to the US for investment, but outside the EU and with a protectionist Donald Trump, we would probably have to make serious concessions like US bases and Im not sure I would go along with that.
 
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Lumpy Talbot

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Great job tricking the Netherlands in joining early on, so.
 

Quebecoise

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Germany was a mix of religious denominations, but France's Protestant communities were never more than 5% of the population.

And correct me if I'm wrong but didn't the CNR community vote 80% remain and the PUL community voted 60% leave?
 

Dame_Enda

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Germany was a mix of religious denominations, but France's Protestant communities were never more than 5% of the population.

And correct me if I'm wrong but didn't the CNR community vote 80% remain and the PUL community voted 60% leave?
Germany was historically much more Protestant than it is today. At the time of the first German unification in 1871, it was two thirds Protestant. The mass influx of Poles after WW2 probably tilted it to 50-50.

But crucially - West Germany was majority Catholic before reunification.

As for French Protestantism, since the Revolution it has never been much more than 1 million. It was around 800,000-2 million when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which led to most Protestants either converting or leaving. Alsace-Lorraine was exempted from this though, as the king saw these realms as foreign ones united with the same monarch, rather than part of France de jure.

As for the Netherlands, it was historically Protestant but the recent Census shows that is no longer the case. Its now around 36% Catholic, 27% Protestant and most of the rest are Atheist/No Religion or Muslim. The monarchy is still Protestant but I think thats a convention not the law.
 
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Lumpy Talbot

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I honestly don't recall a single reference which would indicate that the European project has anything to do with being catholic nor has anti-EU sentiment the slightest to do with protestantism.

I really think this is just an effort by a couple of Americans to put forward a theory without much in the way of grounding to it.

I think it has more to do with the mindset of people who insist in viewing everything through the lens of religion than anything else.

You might as well say that the rise of the European Union coincides with increasing secularism in European states and you'd have a much better case and timeline.

You can only agree with these lads if you insist on viewing European states as being driven to international agreements motivated by religion and that would be appallingly ignorant in the 20th and 21st centuries.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Would the two academics allege that the Brexit vote in the UK breaks down into religious sectors? With the pro-Brexit vote being Protestants fleeing a catholic political European hegemony?

In all the acres of newsprint on the Brexit issue I have never seen any indication at all of even the slightest hint of a religious tinge to the debate.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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If anything one of the few successes one can point to in the development of the European Union is the very fact that religion has largely been kept out of it. Despite a number of attempts to introduce it by the religious.

Angela Merkel and her attempt to resolve Germany's working population problem hardly points to a surfeit of catholicism in Germany and she is fairly obvious very pro-European Union to the point where she is willing to try to ignore the Dublin Accord by flooding Germany with predominantly muslim immigrants.

That doesn't seem hugely catholic to me. And the mere fact that Europe's birth-rate is at or below replacement levels is another indicator that what moves Europe and its European integration model is hardly evidence of the EU being a catholic project.

I think the two academics are reaching and their conclusions may have more to do with where they started from rather than having anything to do with an overt religious element to the European Union.
 

Quebecoise

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You're viewing religion as strong religious faith rather than as national history. As we can see from Northern Ireland the terms 'Catholic' and 'Protestant' are used less as statements about theology, and more as shorthand for historical political, social, and cultural differences.

England is not a particularly religious country today but its national history is tied up with resistance to the powers of the continent. And that religious history is part of the national story from the Tudor monarchs on.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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You're viewing religion as strong religious faith rather than as national history. As we can see from Northern Ireland the terms 'Catholic' and 'Protestant' are used less as statements about theology, and more as shorthand for historical political, social, and cultural differences.

England is not a particularly religious country today but its national history is tied up with resistance to the powers of the continent. And that religious history is part of the national story from the Tudor monarchs on.
Well if you want to try and relate the pro-Brexit vote in Lincolnshire to the Tudors please be my guest. It makes a nice change to the grumbles that it was white van man who turned on Europe because of uncontrolled immigration but that's about all it is.
 

devoutcapitalist

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Would mainly Protestant EU states also be more culturally honest compared to predominantly Catholic EU states, there seems to be an element of truth in that stereotype.

As for the UK I think there were plenty of prominent Catholics who wanted the UK to leave the EU, Jacob Rees Mogg been a prime example.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Past and present Archbishops of Canterbury were and are very much pro-European. And you can hardly get more protestant than a van full of archbishops of canterbury.

And as every Archbishop of Canterbury knows in England the people of Lincolnshire aren't going to consult him on which way to vote.

His job is to judge cake competitions at country fairs and do stuff at civic occasions and that is pretty much it.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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That's how the brexit vote broke down in NI.
Northern Ireland is the equivalent of the Balkans when it comes to religion and politics being mixed. It is hardly suitable as an extrapolation for Europe as a whole.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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Scotland can hardly be defined as presently or historically catholically fanatic and there is considerable anxiety there that the country should remain within the European Union after Brexit.
 

Lumpy Talbot

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When Margaret Thatcher was banging her fist on the table in Brussels she wasn't settimg herself up to defend Henry VIII from the nefarious papists of France or Germany.

When it comes down to the shop-till religion has nothing to do with it.
 


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