Italy is experiencing its own kind of “culture war” with a new breed of Italian “neo-conservatives” battling over questions of secularism and religious pluralism. Religion in the News (Fall) reports that the new “Italian culture warriors” call themselves “religious atheists” and “secular anti-secularists,” as they press for a greater public role for religion, even if they are not particularly devout themselves
. The Italian neoconservatives tend to admire President Bush, approve of the war in Iraq, and frequently call for Europeans to rally against an Islamic invasion of the Continent. Their heroes are Italian author Oiana Fallaci, who calls herself a `Christian atheist’ and opponent of Islam, and Pope Benedict XVI, especially for his attacks on relativism, nihilism and secularism in Europe.
One of the foremost neoconservative intellectual leaders in Italy is Marcello Pera, president of the national senate (the highest office in the Italian state) and a member of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia Party, who calls for a “non-confessional Christian civil religion.” The neoconservatives made their first “public splash” in Italy when they joined in a battle over a national referendum on assisted fertility. They joined with the Catholic bishops–who received Vatican support– in calling for voters to boycott the referendum. The turnout of only 25.9 percent was seen as a victory for the neoconservatives and Catholic leaders, though typical voter apathy may also have played a role, writes Emilio Gentile.
But even some Catholic leaders are criticizing the neoconservatives, charging that by reducing Christianity to a civil religion that supports political cohesion, they are politicizing the church. Even so, the neoconservatives and the Vatican are planning to make religion and the issue of “Christian identity” decisive in next year’s national elections and beyond, concludes Gentile.
(Religion in the News, Trinity College, 300 Summit St., Hartford, CT 06106)