It is virtually impossible to separate economics from politics, and politics from a society's culture - but is economics inherently intertwined with religion as well?
Fox Business Network (FBN) anchor Stuart Varney thinks so. On FBN's April 14 broadcast of "Varney & Co." Father Jonathan Morris joined the show's panel and explored the question.
"Do you think that Europe's paganism - it's turn away from Christianity - has anything to do with Europe's economic decline?" Varney bluntly asked the priest. "Can you link this secularism - what I call ‘paganism' in Europe- directly to economic decline?"
"Certainly Europe is much more secular than the United States, and all of a sudden you lose hope," Morrison said. "If you lose hope in what life is all about, you're not going to work very hard. On the other hand, if you have hope that what I'm doing today matters tomorrow - and I'm building a life and I'm building my family and we're going places - and there's something beyond this life? You're going to be hopeful, you're going to make money - you're going to build the culture of life and goodness."
"Paganism is really the worship of false gods. So I wouldn't necessarily equate paganism with secularism," Morrison added, taking slight exception with Varney's wording.
Unavoidably, panelist Charles Payne turned the conversation over to the exceptionally controversial debate over a government's role in health care.
"That's interesting because you take the health care bill for instance and a lot of people are saying that you can interpret it as actually moving away from God, and people will say, ‘What's so ungodly about giving people health care?'" Payne pointed out. "Well I think the issue might be more - when you have your society thinking they can only get help from one source, and that's the government, rather than themselves, rather than faith and belief - aren't you really hurting these people more rather than helping them?"
"I agree," Morrison said. "If we confuse the moral responsibility of a society to make sure there's access to basic and quality health care for all ... confusing that with - therefore the government has the obligation to force you to do it their way? Than we're in big trouble. But yes I believe we should have access of basic and quality health care for all..." "You're exactly right, and that's wrong. If we allow the government to shove it down our throats, that' also wrong. And we have to stand up and say, ‘That is not real moral behavior.'"
Also sitting on the panel was the dissenting voice of Fox Business contributor Chris Carter, and noticeably bothered by the entire segment.
"I can't even dignify this entire segment with a response right now - you and your firestorm of controversy," Carter chimed in toward Varney. "And another thing is, here you are lumping in Hungary, with Portugal, with Luxembourg, with Sweden - all of Europe all of a sudden - they're all ‘pagan,' they're all ‘worshiping the earth.'"
"It's very hard to have a moral culture when you've divorced yourself from any higher power, in terms of whether or not there's a higher power that will provide ultimate justice and what that higher power has to say about the dignity of every human person," replied Father Morrison.
"But yes I can say after living in Europe for nine years, I can say Europe as a continent, Chris - of course not every single individual - Europe as a continent has definitely become more secular and have lost hope. And there's not a lot of reason to work in a lot of these places - better get a good government job and your family will at least be secured for the next few years."
Update: Varney discusses Europe's economic woes with Atheist Alliance International President Stuart Bechman.