Wednesday, April 17, 2019
What it means to be “French,” however, has obviously changed a great deal over the past few centuries. While France is still predominantly Christian, the number of practicing Catholics has fallen year after year, from 64% in 2010 to 56% in 2012, according to one census figure. The number of Muslims in France is also growing, comprising more than 5% of the population (up from 3% in 2006) giving rise to rampant Islamophobia and the birth of far-right extremist parties like the National Front, headed by extremist Marine Le Pen. A profound income gap has also led to the explosion of protests from so-called “yellow vests,” a movement primarily made up of lower-middle-class and middle-class youth on the left who have vandalized many similarly historically significant French monuments (and whose latest actions Macron was expected to comment on in a scheduled press conference, which was postponed when Notre Dame started burning). In fact, in the hours following the fire, many started blaming the accident on the yellow vests; there was also a flurry of Islamophobic posts on social media attributing the fire to Muslim extremist terrorists, despite the fact that all evidence currently indicates that the blaze was accidental.
But arguably this secularization narrative is just that--merely a narrative. Supposedly, in time, say two generations, Catholicism will be back in France, due to the high birth rates of conservative Catholic women and low birth rates of secular, including surprisingly, ex-Muslim women. So all of this, religion is ending and Notre Dame has burned to the ground stuff may be, and I suspect is, greatly overstated if not actually just wrong.