Forgive me in advance for the paucity of sources cited. Husband is watching the children so I can write.
There is an interesting post making the rounds positing lactose tolerance as a proxy for whiteness. I don't dispute the thesis, it's interesting. But I would like to proffer a different kind of metabolic process that I think offers more spiritual implications, and that's alcohol consumption.
If you're pressed to think of a unifying characteristic of Europeans that isn't cultural, it's not the easiest task. They're a pretty diverse bunch: Gauls, Slavs, Britons, Scandinavians, Teutons, Latins, Celts. It's hard to generalize. I lived in Europe (France, Spain, Italy, Ireland) on and off for about four years from 1997 until 2002. I've traveled Europe from Trondheim to Palermo, from Budapest to Galway. One of the few generalizations I could make: They like to drink.
Americans like to drink too, of course. But I don't believe it's as institutionalized a habit as it is in Europe- especially Northern Europe. Arguable, of course.
There are the stereotypes: The Irish are drunks, the Russians are drunks. What I learned from my travels in Europe: They are all drunks.
The Southern Europeans- the French, Spanish, Italians- are usually more controlled and kind of more sophisticated about it. Moving North, the Germans start to need it a bit more and admit they need it a bit less. By the time you've reached Scandinavia, they're wild with it.
The worst, most savage, most off-the-rails, most chasing-oblivion drunks I observed in Europe were the English. I just read a Julian Fellowes novel where he had a character lament in passing the nihilistic insensibility-seeking characteristic of contemporary youth drinking-culture in the UK. "Chasing oblivion" is the best way I can describe it. "Spiritual void" is the next associative phrase that comes to mind.
Please file that away for later: the association between "chasing oblivion" and "spiritual void." It will matter later on.
Here is where I should cite sources, but I won't. Alcohol appeared in Asia and the Middle East around 5000 BC, reached Greece around 2000 BC, was a staple of Ancient Rome. In Northern Europe it became an aspect of life much later- which may account for the lack of habituation. For example, it is very rare to find an Iranian or a Jewish alcoholic, more common to find an alcoholic of, for example, Scottish or Polish ancestry.
My personal cultural observation is that this tendency towards alcoholism defines the European, meaning this tendency and its associated qualities are what distinguishes his personality from the rest of the world's. What are the associated qualities? Completely unscientifically, I might categorize them as: (1) other-worldliness, (2) lack of materialism, (3) abstract-thinking, (4) poetic-sensibility, (5) idealism, (6) sensitivity, and (7) what Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn refers to as "beastly earnestness"- that quality of crushing, relentless, bloody-minded seriousness of purpose stereotypically associated with Germans.
Some Chinese Academy did a very interesting study a few years ago (and here as well, I should cite, but you can google) and their findings caused them to attribute the success of the West to Christianity.
Full disclosure: I am Christian. Christianity is truth. As a Christian, I know that everybody needs Christianity, and everybody will fail without Christianity.
But my particular thesis is that Europeans- these recently former Christians- will fail perhaps more spectacularly without Christianity. (Not much of a thesis, I'm cautious.)
My thesis is that these same qualities- which are almost all plainly evolutionarily maladaptive- when harnessed by Christianity, produced the juggernaut whose petering out we are all witnessing, the juggernaut commonly historically referred to as "Christendom" or "Western Civilization."
In other words, Christianity harnessed otherwise maladaptive (Perhaps Neanderthal-remnant? Ha ha.) qualities in Europeans, and those qualities- channeled into a Christian rubric- resulted in Empire- and an indisputably very high level of civilization.
Left to their own devices, well, I think we are seeing the results of what happens when Europeans’ beastly earnestness, idealism, sensitivity, other-worldliness, lack of materialism, poetic-sensibility, and abstract thinking are left to their own devices.
Europeans flail about at third-rate superficial endeavors for a generation, and then these qualities are eventually channeled by outsiders and ruthless interests toward the goal of the Europeans' own demise. Self-destruction, in effect.
My thesis is not that Europeans are uniquely suited to Christianity. As a Christian, I could never believe that. My thesis is only that without Christianity, I do not believe that the Europeans will survive. They were not much when they were pagan, to be honest.
At present day, the obvious likelihood is that much of European territory will become Muslim, but it is my guess that many of the present Europeans will not be part of the coming caliphate. Deprived of Christianity, their "Neanderthal" otherworldliness is simply weakness, and they will subside and submit; some will assimilate, most will eventually disappear.
The connection between alcohol, alcoholism and spirituality is not a new one, and is certainly not original to me. Jung, for example, posited a connection between alcoholism and spirituality, and it was a recurring theme in his work. In a letter to Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Jung wrote "His craving for alcohol was the equivalent on a low level of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God." Indeed, one of the twelve steps of recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous is recognition of a higher power.
Sure, say the pagans, but this higher power doesn't have to be Christ. I know there is a strain of Euro-centric paganism on the Right. I am not really familiar with it, but I believe that it is a movement to reclaim pagan gods and themes as a locus of spirituality for Europeans. In my view, as a vector of European regeneration, paganism has no legs.
Pagan religions came about as a result of primitive peoples' surmises about the natural world around them. By "primitive," I mean people who could not read, write, or do math, and did not know basic facts we take for granted. While a few more years of Common Core could reduce us to this state, most of us are not there yet. The natural and correct sense that paganism is a step backwards is one that is difficult to shake.
Even more damaging, paganism is very silly. No, it is not your god hurling lightning bolts at people, they are electrical charges traveling between the clouds and the earth. Have you ever heard of Benjamin Franklin and his kite, for goodness' sake.
I would also argue, based on the qualities above I believe inherent in the European character, that paganism is not going to cut it for most contemporary Europeans. Paganism has the potential to appeal to poetic-sensiblity and sensitivity, but that is about it. Paganism is not about other-worldliness, paganism is about this world right here; indeed, I would argue its origins lie in observing the world around.
Most fatally, paganism does not speak to Europeans' tendency toward beastly earnestness and abstract thinking. Beastly earnestness and abstract thinking are the hallmarks of our best thinkers, and there is no material for them in paganism. That dog will not hunt.
This is why Christianity and Europe was a marriage of true minds, and this is why Europe excelled as it did when it was Christian.
For the European tendency toward beastly earnestness and abstract thinking, the books of the Bible and centuries of Christian genius are there to study.
For the European tendency toward poetic sensibility, there is the Bible as literary work, there are stories and characters that capture the imagination, there are the many aesthetic pleasures to be found in Christian worship.
For the sensitive, there is of course the reassurance of God's love. It is obvious how the European comparative lack of materialism dovetails with Christianity. Similarly, the European's tendency toward idealism finds a good home.
And finally and I think most importantly, the European's sense of other-worldliness (perhaps his most maladaptive characteristic, my friends) is confirmed and rendered benign by Christianity.
To be in the world, but not to be of it. This is comprehended in Christianity.