Writing in that fateful year, 1939, T.S. Eliot, intellectual and Christian, admonished his contemporaries who had placed their faith in the triumph of democracy. Democracy is not enough, Eliot wrote.
"As political philosophy derives its sanction from ethics, and ethics from the truth of religion, it is only by returning to the eternal source of truth that we can hope for any social organization which will not, to its ultimate destruction, ignore some essential aspect of reality.
"The term 'democracy,' as I have said again and again, does not contain enough positive content to stand alone against the forces you dislike -- it can easily be transformed by them. If you will not have God (and He is a jealous God), you should pay your respects to Hitler and Stalin."
When Eliot wrote, the world had before it a textbook example of how democracy can be exploited by its enemies: the Third Reich.
After his failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, Hitler decided to take the longer road to power, the democracy road.
Named chancellor of Germany as leader of the largest minority party in the Reichstag in 1933, Hitler used plebiscites to enable the German people to participate in his rule and ratify his policies. After the reoccupation of the Rhineland and the Anschluss with Austria, national referenda were held. Up to 99 percent of all Germans endorsed his actions. By Munich, he was the most popular political leader in Europe.
This, then, is the point. Democracy is but a process by which people participate in choosing and confirming their rulers. But if the peoples of Europe have lost their belief in the truths of Christianity -- the faith that made Europe -- and the morality and ethics derived from those truths, they can wind up with a hell on earth.
Which brings us to Holland, a nation that can rightfully claim to be in the avant-garde of post-Christian Europe.
In Amsterdam, in the Red Light District, there are brothels, sex shop and sex museums. Women advertise their charms in storefronts. Window prostitution has been legalized, as has possession of marijuana and hashish, which are sold over the counter in coffee shops. Drugs are done openly. Pornography is pervasive.
Amsterdam has a "liberal and tolerant attitude," runs a web ad. "Instead of criminalizing everything, this upfront city wears its heart on its sleeve." Not to be outdone, Utrecht has a canal-based red light district. Rotterdam has sex clubs and private houses for the legalized enjoyment of the pleasures of the flesh.
Holland also leads Europe in the "liberal and tolerant" stance it has taken toward suicide. In April 2002, a Dutch law took effect permitting physicians to assist in euthanasia and suicides so long as the procedure is carried out in a medically appropriate fashion.
Anyone 16 or over has a right to suicide. If you are between 12 and 16, you have to get your guardian's approval to kill yourself. In World War II, the Dutch doctors who resisted the Nazi euthanasia program were heroes. Apparently, those doctors were just behind the times.
The latest news from Holland is that a new party is about to be formed, the Charity, Freedom and Diversity Party. Principal platform plank: reduction of the legal age for sex from 16 to 12 years old.
"We are going to shake The Hague awake!" say the pedophiles of Holland, for whom dropping the age for sex to 12 is but the beginning. They wish to eradicate all prohibitions on sex with children and with animals.
This, of course, would cheer the late Dr. Alfred Kinsey, the American sexologist whose "researchers" either abused scores of children and infants, or who used the testimony of child-molesters to make the case that adult-child sex can be beneficial to both.
Which brings us back to Eliot's point. If one rejects Christianity, and the morality and ethics that proceed from it, on what ground does one stand to outlaw drugs, prostitution, euthanasia, assisted suicide and sex with children or dogs?
Holland today, and America -- with its toll of aborted babies now nearing the 50 million mark since Roe v. Wade -- raise profound questions for conservatives and traditionalists.
What if the free society chooses to become a decadent and depraved society? Do we still owe it allegiance and loyalty? Does a community have the right to impose its values, if those values are rooted in religion, on a minority that disbelieves in those values? We certainly did that during the civil rights era of the 1960s.
At what point does a regime, even if democratically elected, become illegitimate, as surely Hitler's was by the time Eliot wrote?
"What makes you think the West is worth saving?" the priest asked Whittaker Chambers when he visited him in that hospital room in the 1950s. Good question then. Better question now.
Perhaps the Muslims, who may well be a majority in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague in 10 years, will moot the issue for us all.