Fr Andrew Phillips of England has written an excellent essay on the death of the West and on her possible rebirth. It begins,
Secularism, the worship of this world, has always existed and always will exist. It comes from the fact that the human-being, part breath of God and part fallen nature, is torn in two directions, towards the Kingdom of God and towards the fallen world. At times in his history he has turned more to the Kingdom of God, at other times more towards the fallen world. The attraction of the fallen world, secularism, is so strong that it can get inside religion, or rather pervert and deform religion into idolatry, for there have always been and are religions which actually idolize the fallen world, mistaking fallen creation for the Creator. They are called paganism. As examples we can mention yesterday’s Baal, Greek gods and Roman emperor-worship, or today’s religion of consumerism and entertainment (fun), bread and circuses.
Indeed, pagan secularism can enter into any religious system in forms as diverse as the physical sensuality of Hinduism or the militant violence of Islam, as the State-serving of Confucianism or the State worship of Shintoism, as the bourgeois capitalism accepted and promoted by Protestantism or the racial nation-worship to be found on the nominalist margins of Orthodox Christianity, even though officially condemned. Humanity, in other words, is capable of defiguring and corrupting anything, making the spiritual pure into the innately secular. The greatest danger is when such corruption becomes institutionalized, an inherent part of the system. It was in order to avoid this that in the fourth century monasticism began to develop very quickly and the capital of the pagan Roman Empire, which Christianity had vanquished through the Martyrs, was moved away from corrupted Rome to New Rome, uniting East and West, Asia and Europe in the Christian Roman Empire.
However, human nature is the same worldwide. Despite the removal of temptation by moving the Christian capital from pagan Rome, the spirit of the old pagan secularism still reached into Christianity there, over the centuries creating a new religion. The revived spirit of pagan Rome, of worldliness and secularism, was actually ingrained into this new religious system, made systematic and institutionalized by it. After earlier temptations it was eventually defined in Rome in the eleventh century, in imitation of the pagan Roman Empire and came to be called Roman Catholicism. This was essentially an attempt to make the former Church in Western Europe more powerful than all worldly rulers, to make the Church into a State – the most powerful State of all, to create a Roman universalism, hence its name. This was the world’s power to defigure, not the Church’s power to transfigure.
The way in which this was done was primitive enough. First it was necessary to assert that the Holy Spirit proceeded from Christ, from Him Who had taken on human nature while still remaining God. In the later eighth century the warlike barbarian Charlemagne found such a mistaken affirmation and tried to use it to assert his authority against the Church. In this he failed. Then in the early eleventh century the same mistaken affirmation was made again, but this time in Rome where within a few more years the Western leader, the Pope, began to call himself the Vicar (substitute) of Christ. This granted the Western leader Divine authority, by both theologically and juridically making him the source of the Holy Spirit. The trick was complete.
With this new ideology, the Western leader, the Pope, was in effect made God on earth, Pontifex Maximus, the infallible bridge between God and man, just like the old pagan Roman emperors. But when this God on earth commanded armies, launched pagan and barbaric military campaigns (called conquests and crusades) that looted, raped, pillaged and murdered hundreds of thousands, destroying higher forms of civilization, persecuted and tortured all those who disagreed with him, claimed to be able to sell places in Paradise, built himself palaces with every luxury, provided himself with male lovers or brothels and poisoned his enemies, people realized that his was not the Church of God.
Essentially then, what had once been the Church in Western Europe started to rot from the head downwards, its ruling warlike elite forming a neo-pagan institution, a servant of the world. . . .