Book Review: The Strange Death of Europe

Book Review

It’s odd really, I found the book to shake me to my very core and open up my eyes to situations and a variety of perspectives of the world that I have never recognised are there before. Being a white English male in their early 30’s and being raised in a predominantly white area for most of my life, I really don’t know what it is like to live in places where other ethnicity’s or races have begun to call home. But I have seen the change to Europe in the news and politics. I have never really stopped to think about it before though.

I have seen news articles about immigration, about the effect of Europe slowly changing over the decades, and very quickly in the last decade. I have seen the photos of bodies on the beaches, washed ashore because the vessels they set out in didn’t make it to their European destination. There was no one to save them as they sink. I have seen the refugee camps; the poverty and I have seen a couple of cities in the North of England change in the last five years alone due to immigration.

But I have also been told two things my whole life. Multiculturalism is vital and that this country should answer the call of those fleeing their country, for whatever reason. This book has made me question both of these things.

Now, this blog post might very well piss a lot of people off, what I need you to realise is that this blog is just my reflection on what I read and engage with.

Mr Murray has been labelled a racist, a xenophobe, a liar and a Nazi many a time because of the perspective he shares with those he engages with through his talks, writing and works (like The Strange Death of Europe). What is interesting is that I really don’t think he is any of those things. Rather I think he has seen an issue that affects the very core of our society and has decided to make his voice heard.

I first came across him as he hosted a conversation with Sam Harris and Jordan B Peterson a couple of years ago. I found his wit, insight and way with words to be very powerful. I also found him a very interesting character. He is a Gay man, he is English, he is middle-aged, he has a voice into the world about topics that few dare to attempt to tackle. Interestingly, other than the aforementioned what hit me really hard at the time of discovering him was that he calls himself a ‘Christian Atheist’.

I told my wife that I had found someone who calls themself a ‘Christian Atheist’, and she just laughed. How could anyone call themselves something so contradictory? It took me a while to work it out as well.

I think this book does a really good job of laying the groundwork to Mr Murray’s religious (or lack thereof) worldview. He explains how the basis for many of the things we claim are ‘self-evident’, such as women being equal, sexual fridge groups being included, democracy and the separation of religion and state, are no longer as ‘self-evident’ as we used to think they were.

You see, we have spent the last couple of centuries allowing the religious ideologies of our forebears to no longer hinder us and hold us back. But in this process, we have lost the answers these beliefs held to the massive existential questions every generation ever has asked. ‘Why am I here?’; ‘What is the purpose of this life?’, and ‘What is morality based on?’ (just a couple of examples off the top of my head). Sure, every generation has asked them and come to different conclusions, but for the past few centuries, the answers have still been anchored in a belief in a deity.

We find Europe today, lost after two wars at the start and mid of the 20th century that crippled its idea of human value and human atrocity. This Europe is (arguably) without a soul and the distinctive element that makes Europe what it was a hundred years ago. Our countries and worldviews have become a void of confusion and purposelessness. We desire current consumerism to grant the current inhabitants’ reasons and goals, as well as a whole host of new and different peoples, who have travelled to our lands. These ‘others’ hold other worldviews and different ‘self-evident truths’, which are beginning to tip the balance of what Europe is today and what it will be in the future.

As you can see, these sorts of conversations are things that very few pew-sitting individuals would ever engage with, as rather than assessing the current political and social climate, we are more interested in praying for the return of God to end all suffering and spending our time singing to Him in worship. Even the nonreligious within our societies are more interested in consumerism than they are in the tipping climate mentioned above.

I won’t go much further as this book is well worth the read and I really wouldn’t do it enough justice if I tried to explain it anymore. Rather I will leave you with a few quotes, to get a flavour for the style, insight and prose of Mr Murray.

‘Across some rather surprising learning moments – a terrorist attack here, an ‘honour’ killing there, a few cartoons somewhere else – the awareness grew that not everybody who had come to our societies shared our views. They did not share our views about equality between the sexes. They did not share our views on the primacy of reason over revelation. And they did not share our views on freedom and liberty. To put it another way, the unusual European settlement, drawn up from ancient Greece and Rome, catalysed by the Christian religion and refined through the fire of the Enlightenments, turned out to be a highly particular inheritance.’ Murray, Douglas. The Strange Death of Europe (p. 261). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

‘A country that believes it has never done any wrong is a country that could do wrong at any time. But a country that believes it has only done wrong, or done such a terrible, unalleviated amount of wrong in the past, is likely to become a country that is inclined to doubt its ability to ever do any good in the future.’ Murray, Douglas. The Strange Death of Europe (p. 169). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

_End of Blog Blurb_

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. It has taken me a few years to get to a place where I am able to share my loss of faith and to start writing about the journey that I am still on for you all. I hope you find it useful.

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Podcast: If you like what you read then you could always check out the podcast ‘When Belief Dies’, it is available on all major podcasting platforms or you can listen via YouTube. Dave and I upload and publish via Anchor FM each Wednesday at 7 am.

Grammar, spelling, capitalisation and punctuation: I am massively dyslexic. It has taken me years to get to the level I am currently at with writing and I have done this mainly through reading. I want to be better and ask you, reader, to please forgive any errors in my writing. I hope you notice improvement upon improvement over the coming years.

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I’ll see you back here at the same time next week 🙂


Farewell For Now When Belief Dies

It's time to stop, even though it breaks my heart. This episode serves as my reason why.   -Sam
  1. Farewell For Now
  2. When Belief Dies #100 – 'Psychedelics, Philosophy & God' with Peter Sjöstedt-Hughes
  3. When Belief Dies #99 – 'Open and Relational Theology' with Thomas Jay Oord
  4. When Belief Dies #98 – 'The Take Over' with Daniel Kelly & Roger Bretherton
  5. When Belief Dies #97 – 'The End?' with Daniel Kelly

4 Comments. Leave new

  • I haven’t read the book but I have listened to several podcast interviews with Douglas Murray. I can see how he comes under fire for his criticism of Islam and the danger it represents to a free society. His opponents in that area tend to be generally critical of conservative Christianity but much less so of conservative Islam. Why is this so? I think it’s because such critics see Christianity as a White Man’s Religion, and therefore bad, while regarding Islam as a Black/Brown Person’s Religion, making criticism of the ideas of Islam look like racism. I agree that ideas should be evaluated on their merits rather than on the identity of those who hold or promote them.

    I think Murray would argue that the many advances in human well-being during the past few centuries, while having some basis in Judeo-Christianity, were really made possible when Christian theocracy lost its grip on the western mind and society, with the advent of the Enlightenment starting in the 17th Century CE. Now he sees those advances as potentially threatened by a new version of theocracy that has gained great power in the Middle East since the 1970s: Islamic Theocracy, both Sunni and Shiite. I think that those of us who have rejected theism and supernatural beliefs should be especially concerned: our intellectual forebears, those who openly questioned Christianity in centuries past, often paid with their lives or at least their livelihoods. Today I see the heart-breaking stories of young deconverts from Islamic theism being cast out by their families and repeatedly under threat of harm or death itself from the devout.

    The establishment view in the early 21st Century seems to be that national borders are an antiquated idea and that compassion – sometimes equated with Humanism – requires us to admit outsiders without fear or favor. But I think it is important to resist admitting those who do not accept our Enlightenment values, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, which must include freedom FROM religion. Having outgrown or escaped from Christian theocracy, we can’t complacently assume either that Islam poses no such threat, or indeed that Christianity could once again metastasize into its uglier, evil version of centuries past. That is why I would like to see both Christianity and Islam consigned to the past. They both often motivate the devout to acts of great kindness and good, but at various times in history they have encouraged great evil. Any time somebody says “God Wants…” or “God Says…”, trouble is likely to follow. And forward progress is not assured: Muslim societies went from being relatively tolerant (of the rights of women and the secular, for example) in the early and mid-20th Centuries to the oppression of the past four or five decades.

    If you haven’t already read “Enlightenment Now” by Steven Pinker, I highly recommend it. Pinker would give less credit to religion or theism than maybe Murray would, but there are large areas of overlap. I look forward to you review of that book!

    Always a joy to read your latest thoughts from a year ago! And yes I’ll be listening to your podcasts…

  • whenbeliefdies
    December 19, 2020 2:05 pm

    Love your comments and support!

    Is this the book you want me to read and review?

    You should follow me on Goodreads if you use it? You’ll get an idea of what reviews are coming up. Though I don’t review the fantasy stuff, obviously. I currently have 4 books on the go and two others ready in the wings. I will pick the Pinker one up next though if you think it’ll be good to go through 🙂

    As always – thank you 🙂

  • Yep, that’s it. I do have a Goodreads account but it’s been rather dormant. I may create a new one where I can be more open as an apostate! I do recall (on Twitter maybe?) seeing you mention Goodreads reviews and my reaction is usually “I wish I had the self-discipline to make reading as much of a priority as this guy does!”


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