An interesting article published in The Spectator which popped up in my Facebook news feed. It wasn’t an article I could especially ‘Like’ but it does make some good points, which prompted some comment of myown:
Interesting article. I think European platitudes are the legacy of colonialism. The sword is double edged, however as the colonial hangover is hard to cure. Recent military engagements in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya serve as a reminder. So I remain sceptical and ambivalent on ‘the problem with Islam’ narrative for three reasons:
a) history and current events teach us that religion is often used as the lever to divide and conquer a people as it is conducive to securing land and resources
b) the biggest threat to Christianity in the West is not from Islam …it is from rampant secularism, also met with “platitudes” by the political establishment
c) the biggest threat to world peace and security is resource scarcity, driven by climate change; this being consistent with the US military establishment’s view.
“De-literalisation” is a challenge for world faiths collectively and individually. If the Torah had been de-literalised, would the State of Israel have been founded? If we de-literalised Moses’ Ten commandments, would western civilisation have established the major tenets of law that are firmly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition?
So I have a more optimistic view than that which is expressed in The Spectator and by the newspaper media in general. Based largely on my own experience (not mouse clicks) the major religions have far more that bind them that divide them.
Why, in any case, would a profoundly secular media be in the business of promoting the Good news? When I was doing some Interfaith work back in the nineties, I first came across the “Declaration of the Religions for a Global Ethic.” This was first drafted one hundred years earlier by the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, 1893.
I keep a copy on my wall as it is a daily reminder that the world is a safe and beautiful place. The document in many respects was ahead of its time. Not only does it ‘hold’ all core values of the worlds’ religions, it embraces values that play to modern day humanism, environmentalism and spirituality.
I appreciate that the Interfaith ministry / movement is one of several elements that can help to reconcile differences. It is limited insofar that religious differences don’t always go hand in hand with cultural, ethnic, national, political and other differences – differences that make us human beings so fascinating and each one of us, unique! So it is wise I think, as with so much of life, to adopt an open, holistic and multi-faceted approach.
I am very much drawn to the Global Ethic because it is very inclusive and to a simple man like me, unburdens me from complex theology and the moral maze. It’s refreshing because so many faiths, traditions and institutions assume spiritual and moral authority over others. This is something I am not terribly comfortable with, more so, because I feel that I am part of a multicultural and multi faith society – at a local, national and global level. I also like it because it plays to humanism. My impression is that British humanists are quite adept at excluding themselves from any ‘interfaith’ forums. Their tendency is to overlook that ubiquitous caveat ‘those of any faith or none’. God forbid they might enlighten us with their superior powers of reasoning! This is why I don’t feel like I am part of a (healthily functioning) secular society. In a genuinely secular society, we’d all be talking to each other and at worst, agreeing to disagree and finding mutual ground.
I think those of different faiths have more to gain though working and worshiping together. Our biggest threat is not from each other but from the rising tide of aggressive secularism. Personally, I don’t have a problem with authentic secularism and consider it healthy. However, I have to say, with some regret, that I see more of that healthy secularism overseas than I do here in England. I may be a little out of touch but my impression is that countries like the Uruguay, Netherlands, the Czech and Irish Republics, Hungary, France and Canada ‘do’ secularism better.
I don’t know if Mr. Dawkins is entirely to blame for this militant brand of atheism but I do know that he is not very much liked by many Atheists, especially his scientific peers, who are more conciliatory and tolerant.
I understand very well, just from my own experience, that interfaith work is challenging but it is healthy and can help to enliven one’s spiritual,cultural and social life. I don’t for a minute consider it to be a watering down of one’s own faith. My concern is that some would see it that way.
From a conflict resolution perspective, I can’t imagine that being uncompromising about one’s spiritual beliefs is tremendously helpful if the goal is reconciliation and peace. Interfaith work isn’t for the fainthearted but for those with open minds, it can be a very rewarding and enriching experience.