Book Review: The Strange Death of Europe

3 August 2017

Tim Dieppe reviews Douglas Murray’s new book ‘The Strange Death of Europe.’

Author, journalist, and political commentator, Douglas Murray has written an important book about the changing culture of Europe. It is based on extensive research, and personal visits to key places across the continent. It deserves to be taken seriously.

“Europe is committing suicide”

Murray starts unequivocally with the very first words of the book: Europe is committing suicide. Or at least its leaders have decided to commit suicide. Whether the European people choose to go along with this is, naturally, another matter.” (p1)

He blames two simultaneous concatenations. First, mass movement of peoples into Europe, resulting in what had been Europe gradually becoming a home for the world. Second, Europe losing faith in its beliefs, traditions and legitimacy.

Europe is now deeply weighed down with guilt for its past. … But the fact that a society should feel like it has run out of steam at precisely the moment when a new society has begun to move in cannot help but lead to vast, epochal changes. (p3)

I agree with this analysis, but I think these concatenations are not entirely independent or coincidental. The first is closely tied to and results from the second. As Murray points out, Eastern European nations are refusing to commit this suicide, largely because they value their Christian heritage.

The abandoning of Christianity

Murray asks about European cultureAre we, for instance, Christian?” (p5). He notes the refusal of the EU to recognise its Christian heritage in its constitution, and its desire instead to demonstrate that in the twenty-first century Europe had a self-supporting structure of rights, laws and institutions which could exist even without the source that had arguably given them life.” (p6).

Murray notes that we have replaced Christianity with ‘human rights’, but lack any transcendent justification for these rights.

In the place of religion came the ever-inflating language of ‘human rights’ (itself a concept of Christian origin). We left unresolved the question of whether or not our acquired rights were reliant on beliefs that the continent had ceased to hold or whether they existed of their own accord. This was, at the very least, an extremely big question to have left unresolved while vast new populations were being expected to ‘integrate’. (p6)

Murray says: In most places it has become possible to acknowledge that the culture of human rights, for instance, owes more to the creed preached by Jesus of Nazareth than it does, say, to that of Mohammad.” (p262).

So why are people converting to Islam? Murray discusses this and lays the blame fairly and squarely on the church:

Why do these young men and women (very often women) not reach out and find Christianity? Partly it is because most branches of European Christianity have lost the confidence to proselytise or even believe in their own message. For the Church of Sweden, the Church of England, the German Lutheran Church and many other branches of European Christianity, the message of the religion has become a form of left-wing politics, diversity action, and social welfare projects. Such churches argue for ‘open borders’ yet are circumspect about quoting texts they once preached as revered. There is another cause too. The critical analysis of and scholarship around the roots of Christianity has not yet occurred to the same degree with the roots of Islam. A worldwide campaign of intimidation and murder has been exceptionally successful in holding back that tide.” (p264).

I couldn’t agree more!

Murray also criticises the militant atheists for claiming that all the answers to life’s questions have been solved.

Because although Dawkins may feel that our mystery has been solved – and although science has indeed solved part of it – most of us still do not feel solved. We do not live our lives and experience our existence as solved beings. (p267).

He has a natural revulsion to Christopher Hitchens describing himself as mammalian,and refers approvingly to a book by Marcello Pera: Why We Should Call Ourselves Christians. (p268).

How much immigration is good?

This loss of identity and narrative is problematic, particularly whilst we are seeing the cultural challenges arising from mass immigration.

At any time the loss of all unifying stories about our past or ideas about what to do with our present or future would be a serious conundrum. But during a time of momentous societal change and upheaval the results are proving fatal. The world is coming into Europe at precisely the moment that Europe has lost sight of what it is. And while the movement of millions of people from other cultures into a strong and assertive culture might have worked, the movement of millions of people into a guilty, jaded and dying culture cannot. (p7).

Murray’s account of what has happened is highly personal, and filled with anecdotes of his own travels and meetings. He goes back in history, explaining that even the Norman conquest in 1066 led to no more than 5% of the population of England being Norman (p13). He charts the course of recent immigration policy, showing that even the most vociferous of scaremongers were proven too conservative by what actually happened. All along, opinion polls showed that the British public were overwhelmingly opposed to the migration policies of their governments, and believed that migration was too high (p15). Enoch Powell was dismissed from government after his famous ‘rivers of blood’ speech, though opinion polls showed massive support with 69% believing Heath was wrong to sack him (p16). However, parts of what he said, now seem almost understated. (p17). Powell did not suggest that ‘white British’ would be a minority in their capital city.

As Murray says: Even if you believe – as most people do – that some immigration is a good thing and makes a country a more interesting place, it does not follow that the more immigration the better.” (p28).


Murray points out some obvious but unstated truths:

Anyone can see that a family of people who arrive for the first time in their adopted country and who have never paid into the system are at the very least going to take some time before they have paid in as much in taxes as they will have taken out in housing, schooling, welfare, benefits and all the other advantages of the welfare state. … It is equally obvious that a very open labour market will see people at the lower end of that market edged out of jobs by people from countries where wages and living standards are far lower and who are therefore willing to work for lower pay. (p38).

Immigration is a large contributor to the housing shortage. Murray criticises attempts to hide these obvious facts. ‘Typical migrants’ are presented as extraordinarily successful entrepreneurs.

A widely cited UCL study claimed to show that migrants make a net positive contribution. Murray says that in fact ‘recent’ arrivals from the EEA were the sole migrants for whom such a claim could be made. Non-EEA migrants took out around £95bn net, meaning that if you, included all immigrants, (not just a convenient high net-worth selection), then by the UCL’s own measurements, immigrants to the UK had taken out significantly more than they had put in. Mass migration, in other words, had made the country very significantly poorer over the period in question.” (p42). The final figure for the cost of migrants, after some adjustments, was more than £100bn, but needless to say, this did not make the headlines.

Then there is the argument that immigration is unstoppable because of globalisation. Japan avoids it with policies that stop immigration and make it hard to become a citizen if you are not Japanese. As Murray notes, Japan is not a barbarous country.

Merkel’s About-Turn

Murray describes how Angela Merkel was confronted on a live TV programme in July 2015 with a Palestinian girl who was afraid her family might be deported. Merkel said: “Politics is hard.” If Germany said, “you can all come” … “then she should realise that Germany ‘cannot cope with that’.” (p80). The girl began to cry and Merkel went over to comfort her. German media criticised her ‘cold’ response. The next month immigration targets were raised to 800,000 – four times 2014 levels. Merkel’s slogan to the media was: “We can do this.” (p81). By the end of the year she announced that there would be, “no limit” on the number of migrants Germany would accept (p82).


Murray documents how Merkel stated in a speech in 2010 that multiculturalism has failed, utterly failed. (p96). She received a standing ovation for saying what everyone knew, but no one had said before. Other leaders were quick to join the bandwagon, with David Cameron, Nicolas Sarkozy, and others jumping to pronounce multiculturalism a failure. The apparently unsayable, had not only been said, but been said by almost everybody.

As Murray says: If multiculturalism was not working with around 50,000 people claiming asylum in Germany each year, how was it expected to work with thirty times that number coming in each year?” (p123). A similar thing could be said about Britain.

Murray agrees with Samuel Huntingdon, who said in his last book: Multiculturalism is in its essence anti-European civilisation. It is basically an anti-Western ideology. (p102).

Hungarian resistance

Murray quotes from Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orban’s speech of 15 March 2016 (p229-230). Orban knows that the Christian culture of Europe is under threat:

Europe is the community of Christian, free, and independent nations; equality of men and women; fair competition and solidarity; pride and humility; justice and mercy. This time the danger is not attacking us the way wars and natural disasters do, suddenly pulling the rug from under our feet. Mass migration is a slow stream of water persistently eroding the shores. It is masquerading as a humanitarian cause, but its true nature is the occupation of territory. And what is gaining territory for them is losing territory for us. Flocks of obsessed human rights defenders feel the overwhelming urge to reprimand us and to make allegations against us.

“Allegedly we are hostile xenophobes, but the truth is that the history of our nation is also one of inclusion. and the history of intertwining of cultures. Those who have sought to come here as new family members, as allies, or as displaced persons fearing for their lives have been let in to make a new home for themselves. But those who have come here with the intention of changing our country, shaping our nation in their own image, those who have come with violence and against our will — have always been met with resistance.

Policy Recommendations

The question that needs to be asked, says Murray, is: “What is the role of Europe?”

“Should Europe be a place to which anybody in the world can move and call themselves at home? Should it be a haven for absolutely anybody in the world fleeing war? It is the job of Europeans to provide a better standard of living in our continent to anybody in the world who wants it?” (p294).

Murray has a number of key policy recommendations (p298-300).

  1. Keep migrants in the vicinity of the country from which they are fleeing. This avoids the cultural challenges of travelling further, and also allows them to return more easily. Housing shortages in Sweden and Britain are largely caused by immigration. It costs 50-100x less to house people in the middle east rather than Sweden.
  2. Process asylum claims outside Europe. This is how Australia operates. It would not be impossible to lease territory in Libya for instance.
  3. Deport those found to have no asylum claim.
  4. Create a system of temporary asylum such that the asylum claim is benevolent, but not permanent.

Sadly, policies like these, while popular with the general public, are too politically incorrect for the political elite and do not look like being enacted any time soon.  And so we are faced with the strange death of Europe.

A recovery of Christianity required

Murray’s analysis and diagnosis of the issues involved is superb. He rightly sees the abandonment of Christianity as crucial to the problem and is unafraid to say so. Without a recovery of a strong Christian identity, Europe as we know it will die. Some Eastern European countries, at least, are determined to retain their cultures. Western Europe is in the process of committing suicide.

This book deserves a wide readership. It may help to contribute to a change of mindset. If you are looking for some holiday reading it comes highly recommended, but I would not describe it as uplifting or encouraging! Murray has sounded a warning note. This needs to be heard.

  • Share

Related articles

All content has been loaded.

Take action

Join our email list to receive the latest updates for prayer and action.

Find out more about the legal support we're giving Christians.

Help us put the hope of Jesus at the heart of society.