French writers coined the term "le grand remplacement," meaning the demographic replacement by immigrants of native Europeans. There is, however, another replacement taking place on the old continent.
Look at the images taken by the Israeli-Hungarian photographer Bernadett Alpern. Synagogues -- like silent witnesses of the fall of a fundamental branch of the European civilization -- have been turned into museums, swimming pools, shopping centers, police stations and mosques.
Now it is the turn of the Stars of David and skullcaps, the two most visible Jewish symbols. A poll by the World Zionist Organization recently revealed that at least half of Jews in Europe do not feel safe wearing symbols of their faith. They are right. A few days ago, an 8-year-old Jewish boy wearing a skullcap was attacked and beaten in the street by two men in Sarcelles. Earlier in January, in the same suburb, a man slashed the face of a 15-year-old Jewish girl who was walking home while wearing the uniform of her Jewish school. It is the "new normal" for French Jews.
For years, European elites have been preaching multiculturalism and religious and cultural relativism. Now we find ourselves living through not only further assaults on the habitually besieged Jews and their faith, but a massive de-Christianization, as well.
A historic German church, St. Lambertus, was demolished last month. The 19th-Century Catholic site in Germany was destroyed to make way for a coal mine. It is sadly ironic that the only group protesting this shameful destruction was a secular, non-Christian one: Greenpeace. Forty activists climbed the church to protest its demolition. They displayed banners reading: "Those who destroy culture also destroy humans".
The demolition of one of the towers of St. Lambertus Chruch in Immerath, Germany on January 9, 2018. (Image source: Superbass/Wikimedia Commons)
The abandonment of old churches is not an economic question. Last year, the German Catholic Church's revenues reached a record $7.1 billion. It is rather a question of cultural decline. It is a fate also overtaking many other Christian sites in Europe.
The British housing market is now dealing with a new special entry: former Christian churches. A former Methodist church in Surrey was recently put on sale for the first time in its 154-year history. And a few days later, a church in London went on the market -- converted into apartments.
Religious symbols are an integral part of a civilization. "Communism was a kind of false religion, although it had its own liturgy," said French author Michel Houellebecq in a recent interview. "A religion is much harder to destroy than a political system. And religion plays a key role in the society and in its cohesion".
When old symbols vanish, new ones -- with their own identities -- take their place.
"Islam is a reaction to Christianity, which it wishes to replace", according to Professor Rémi Brague, author of the new book, Sur la religion ("On Religion"). Islamism, according to Brague, is an attempt to replace Judeo-Christian civilization. Europe's public imagination today is being flooded with Islamic symbols, from veils in schools, swimming pools and workplaces, to the volume and height of mosque minarets.
Brague adds that "free institutions hardly developed in areas that had not been influenced by Jewish or Christian ideas". The change should therefore also matter to the secular, who could not care less about religion.
We impenitent secularists might be happily indifferent to the fall of the old religious symbols -- but we should not be indifferent to the new religious symbols taking their place.
Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.