Key issues facing civilization

October 14, 2010

World’s First Global Atheistic Civilization Headed for Disaster: Former Czech President

By Hilary White

ROME, October 13, 2010 ( – The world’s first global and deliberately atheistic civilization is heading for disaster, the first president of the modern Czech Republic told an audience this week. Vaclav Havel, one of the most respected political and literary figures in recent European history, said that the West “has lost its connection with the infinite and with eternity,” with the result that “endless consumer collectivism is giving birth to a new type of loneliness.”

The West’s disconnection from eternity, he said, “is why it always gives priority to short-time profit over long-term profit. It is important whether an investment returns within ten or 15 years, it is less important how it will influence the life of our descendants in one hundred years.”

Havel, a playwright, essayist and anti-communist dissident who was a key figure in the defeat of Soviet communism, served as the tenth and last President of the Soviet Bloc state of Czechoslovakia and as the first President of the Czech Republic from 1993–2003. Speaking at the opening of the Forum 2000 conference in Prague this week, Havel said that unless mankind comes to its senses and becomes more humble, its global, atheistic civilization is doomed.

The pride of the global civilization, he said, is “not only a globally spreading short-sightedness, but also the swollen self-consciousness of this civilization, whose basic attributes include the supercilious idea that we know everything and what we don’t yet know we’ll soon find out, because we know how to go about it.

“We are convinced that this supposed omniscience of ours which proclaims the staggering progress of science and technology and rational knowledge in general, permits us to serve anything that is demonstrably useful, or that is simply a source of measurable profit, anything that induces growth and more growth and still more growth, including the growth of agglomerations.”

The world’s current financial crisis, he said, is the result of pride, he said, calling it “a very small and very inconspicuous call to humility.”

“It is a warning against inappropriate self-confidence and pride of modern civilization.”

“Human conduct is not entirely unpredictable as many creators of economic theories and concepts believe. It is even less true of the conduct of firms and institutions or whole communities,” he said.

“With the cult of measurable profit, proven progress and visible usefulness there disappears respect for mystery and along with it humble reverence for everything we shall never measure and know, not to mention the vexed question of the infinite and eternal, which were until recently the most important horizons of our actions.”

The Forum 2000 conference in Prague, founded by Havel, “aims to identify the key issues facing civilization and to explore ways in which to prevent escalation of conflicts that have religion, culture or ethnicity as their primary components.” The theme of this year’s conference, which closed on Tuesday, was “The World We Want to Live in.”


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