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Without Roots: The West, Relativism, Christianity, Islam Paperback – January 30, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

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Complementary lectures delivered in May 2004 and the lecturers' letters of response to one another make up a small, potent book on the topic that Bruce Bawer's startling While Europe Slept (2006) gives electrifying currency: the decline and all-too-possible fall of European culture to the radical Islam that Mary Habeck in Knowing the Enemy (2006) calls "jihadism." Pera, a philosopher of science who has become president of the Italian senate, dissects political correctness and the condition of which it is a symptom, cultural relativism. Ratzinger, who a year later became Pope Benedict XVI, summarizes Europe's Christian heritage with breathtaking concision and historical mastery. Both men see Europe today in a crisis of identity that has made it largely unable and unwilling to defend its culture against intransigent Islam, and both call for revivifying Christian identity. In his letter, Pera advocates nondenominational Christianity as the basis of a revitalized Europe; in his, Ratzinger propounds the conditions for a pan-European Christian civil religion such as Pera outlines. An engrossing, enlightening, extremely timely discussion. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"(A) thoughtful history lesson about what European/American civilization consists of, with some striking comments on the Spengler-Toynbee debate." The Spectator"

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (January 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465006272
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465006274
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #383,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in 1927 in Germany as Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI has been head of the Roman Catholic Church since April 2005. A prolific author, theologian and university professor, Ratzinger served as an "expert" at the Second Vatican Council, and was tapped in 1977 by Pope Paul VI to lead the German Archdiocese of Munich and Freising. In 1981, Pope John Paul II called him to Rome to head the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, where he served until his papal election.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

132 of 135 people found the following review helpful By John Allen on March 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I didn't really know what to expect when I picked up this little book, but it's much more than an analysis of Europe's problems. It includes thought and analysis by Pera (president of the Italian Senate and a non-Christian) as well as by Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.

Both take a look at the effects relativism has had on European culture and offer their advice on how to shake the malaise that is covering the continent. In the process, they slice history into meaningful events and even give some great insight into the U.S. and it's spiritual, political, and cultural situation.

For Catholics, this is a brillant look into how Ratzinger/Benedict sees the world and the problems he is dealing with. His suggestion of the Christian minority "activist" is a compelling vision for the future in Europe and the U.S.

For non-Catholics, the history of relativism and how it exacerbates our problems with Islam is fascinating. To suggest this is merely "medieval thinking" is ignorance in the purest form. This is a philosophical meditation on where Western culture is and what that means for our future.

Highly recommended.
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77 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Seth J. Frantzman HALL OF FAME on March 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Europe is dying. We know that birthrates in most European countries are near to 1. That means for every two people, one is produced since birth rates measure births from women. If one only measures the birth-rates of indigenous Europeans, not recent immigrants, they will find that in fact the number is closer to .25, that is for every four European Christian women only 1 will have a child.

Europe will not exist in 50 years. Instead Europe will be a majority Muslim. Not only is this a very real fact but the urban landscape of Europe is already almost a majority Muslim. Recent riots, violence and criminality have shown the dangers that are upon europe, also the rise of anti-semitism, racism, intolernace, religion and just plane hatred shows what is happening to Europe.

Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope, co-authored this sad soul searching text that explains how a Europe without a history, without 'roots' is likely to disappear and the disappearence of European people in Europe will mean a damage to the world, it calls into question those ideas like liberty, freedom, democracy, and equality that Europe have related to the world, like in 1940 it threatens a 'new dark age' in the words of Churchill. This is an insightful, wonderful read.

Seth J. Frantzman
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Matthew K. Minerd on January 21, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This collection of essays stands as a testimony on behalf of the West as it drills itself into the ground of Relativism and apathy. Marcello Pera's lecture stands for me as a refreshing breeze coming from the heart of a Europe which has nearly completely bought into the destructive force of Philosophical Relativism. The very dangers of this school of thought are laid out well, as Pera reflects upon how it is freezing the West and is giving it atrophy as conviction dies. Surprisingly, the philosopher-senator also answers the problem of Islamic extremism and the need for response against it. However, Pera's primary focus is the refutation of relativism and the exposition of the ossifying dangers inherent therein.

The speech given by Pope Benedict (then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) focuses more on the cultural heritage of the West and its roots in the Mediterranean. In the face of the decline of the West, the Pope offers a positive assessment of the hopes for development by means of "energetic minorities," a topic which is fleshed out in somewhat greater detail in the correspondence included as an appendix to the essays. This idea remains as a hopeful focus against the semi-biologicistic view of culture as a birth-growth-death process which has no hope of breaking out of a death spiral. The continuity of Ratzinger's understanding of the West through history, a continuity which historically has braved storms of philosophical uncertainty by means of energetic groups (be they monastic, academic, or familial).

In view of the grim realities reflected on by both Ratzinger and Pera as they speak of the West's Fall, they both build a staunchly Christian-underpinning for Europe, an under-pinning which is necessary to have roots for the survival.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Scott Walker on November 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The authors address what faces our world, bridging the gap between secularists and Christians. A joy to read, outstanding.

Marcello Pera: He tackles relativism, Christianity, the west, political correctness, and the clash of Islam. His thesis is a comparison of cultures; the deconstruction: to prove its purpose or foundation; the weakening of the church and Christianity; the paralyzed west. Pera is a professor and philosopher, and amazingly enough, agnostic. "In the age of relativism and silent apostasy belief in the true no longer exists; the mission of the true is considered fundamentalism, and the very affirmation of the true creates or raised fears."

Joseph Ratzinger: He discusses Europe and its borders; the failings, birth, influence and outflow of Christianity; the rise of secularism; God and Christ the foundation. Ratzinger sees the world clearly, and his boldness is refreshing. Is Europe on the decline and is the U.S. following suite?

Letter to Joseph Ratzinger from Marcello Pera: Marcello praises Joseph, and brings forth important questions, such as: Europe choosing a religious identity over a Christian; fearing intolerance; the double standards.

Letter to Marcello Pera from Joseph Ratzinger: Joseph answers some of Marcello's questions: the Catholic/Protestant secularism; the struggles of the church, losing their way; ethics and society. A look at problems from a different angle.

Wish you well

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