During the past week or so, I have been reading and writing about Church history in Europe from the fourth to twelfth centuries (see). That was prompted by some blog posts by English atheistic philosopher/blogger AC Grayling, who depicted Christianity as the cause of the Dark Ages, as slowing scientific and cultural progress.
I was thus interested in some words about self-doubt within the rewriting of Europe's past, in a speech given February 7 by French presidential candidate Nicholas Sarkozy (my translation):
"France doubts itself, its identity, its future. To love France is first of all to give it back hope, it is first of all to give it confidence in itself. . . .
"The European dream needs the Mediterranean dream. It diminished when the dream burst that once had sent the knights from all of Europe onto the roads of the East, the dream that attracted towards the south so many emperors of the Holy Empire and so many kings of France, the dream that was the dream of Bonaparte in Egypt, of Napoleon III in Algeria, of Lyautey in Morocco. That dream that was not so much a dream of conquest as a dream of civilization.
"Let us stop blackening the past. The Occident sinned for a long time by arrogance and ignorance. Many crimes and injustices were committed. But the majority of those who left for the South were neither monsters nor exploiters. . . . One can disapprove of colonization with the values which are ours today. But one must respect the men and women of goodwill who meant, in good faith, to work beneficially for an ideal of civilization in which they believed. . . . I want to say to all the proponents of repentance who rewrite history and who judge the men of yesterday without concern for the conditions in which they lived, nor for what they endured -- I want to say to them: By what right do you judge them? I want to say to them: By what right do you ask sons to repent for the sins of their fathers, which their fathers often committed only in your imagination? I want to say to them: Were you never moved by the voice of Camus, speaking for those who were going to have to leave the land of their childhood? 'Passionately I loved this land where I was born, I drew from it all that I am, and I never severed my friendship with any of the men who live there, of whatever race they may be. Although I knew and shared miseries, which were not lacking, it remained for me the land of happiness, energy and creation.'"