Posts tagged ‘europe’

January 3, 2008

islamophobia and the holocaust

From religionnewsblog:

When teaching Holocaust studies to Dutch Muslim teenagers in Amsterdam, Mustafa Daher says he first has to defuse his pupils’ own hostility toward Jews and Israel. “If I don’t capture their interest, then I have done nothing. So I use the rising Islamophobia to help them connect to the persecution of the Jews,” the seasoned educator says.

Somehow this seems incredibly wise.

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December 23, 2007

tony blair goes catholic!

In an attempt not to be forgotten by the media, Tony Blair, the erstwhile top guy in Britain, disses the Queen’s church and sides with the German pope (What Would Churchill Do?).

I would be interested to know exactly why Mr. Blair switched. What the Catholic church usually has going for it is its tradition (it goes all the way back to the beginning, a religious topos if there ever was one). In (updated) theological parlance: catholic ecclesiology pwnz teh protestant version.

Mr Blair was received into full communion with the Catholic Church by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, during Mass in the chapel at Archbishop’s House, Westminster, on Friday.

Mr Blair, formerly a member of the Church of England, has been receiving doctrinal and spiritual preparation from Mgr Mark O’Toole, the Cardinal’s private secretary.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said: ‘I am very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic Church. For a long time he has been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family and in recent months he has been following a programme of formation to prepare for his reception into full communion. My prayers are with him, his wife and family at this joyful moment in their journey of faith together.’

December 23, 2007

Have yourself a pagan little christmas

According to Yahoo News early Christmas aficionados called upon the PR abilities of pagan roman sites (actually THE roman site par excellence, ie where Romulus and Remus got nursed by a wolf (for current wolf nursing news see here)) to spread the word about Dec. 25th.

ROME – The church where the tradition of celebrating Christmas on Dec. 25 may have begun was built near a pagan shrine as part of an effort to spread Christianity, a leading Italian scholar says.
Italian archaeologists last month unveiled an underground grotto that they believe ancient Romans revered as the place where a wolf nursed Rome’s legendary founder Romulus and his twin brother Remus.

A few feet from the grotto, or “Lupercale,” the Emperor Constantine built the Basilica of St. Anastasia, where some believe Christmas was first celebrated on Dec. 25.

thx ed.

December 13, 2007

secular europe rocks (and america doesn’t).

from Roger Cohen at the NYT:

 ST. ANDREWS, Scotland. The cathedral here, on which work began in the 12th century, was once the largest in Scotland, until a mob of reformers bent on eradicating lavish manifestations of “Popery” ransacked the place in 1559, leaving gulls to swoop through the surviving facade.

Europe’s cathedrals are indeed “so inspired, so grand, so empty,” as Mitt Romney, a Mormon, put it last week in charting his vision of a faith-based presidency. Some do not survive at all. The Continent has paid a heavy price in blood for religious fervor and decided some time ago, as a French king put it, that “Paris is well worth a Mass.”

Romney, a Republican presidential candidate, was dismissive of European societies “too busy or too ‘enlightened’ to venture inside and kneel in prayer.” He thereby pointed to what has become the principal transatlantic cultural divide. (thx ed.)

Now Cohen doesn’t actually say much except that he is worried about how politics are mixing into american politics. But perhaps that is all he needs to say. I, of course, have a few more cents to put in.

What should probably be noted, and which does not come out so clearly in the opinion piece, is that european secularism is not equivalent to the separation of church and state. The later does not mean (correct me if im wrong) that you cannot talk about god in politics, but only that you cannot legislate in favour of or against particular gods or religion in general. But arguing that we should ban X because god Y is against it is perfectly alright as long as god Y doesnt show up in the text of the law.

So, to work with habermasian concepts, separation of church and state allows you to talk in religious terms about politics and legislation, but the legislation itself must conform to Habermas’ injunction that it must be translated into purely non-religious, that is secular terminology (no god talk).

So Cohen is perfectly right to chide Bush for invoking god in his war talk (what was he thinking? for that matter, (what) is he ever thinking?) and Romney for his sidelining unbelievers. That is certainly a very dangerous infiltration of religion into politics. But the American habit of fighting religious wars by political proxy, while perhaps rather barbaric by european standards, does not seem to me to be condemnable by constitutional ones.

Now that doesn’t mean that i don’t find america’s political religion deplorable. But i don’t think we can blame it on an imperfect separation between church and state. What we can blame it on is an imperfect understanding of the role of government. As surprising at it might be, it think americans have here a more extensive view of government than europeans do. The latter believe that government should limit itself to legislating those matters which everyone agrees we should legislate (even if they absolutely disagree on how to do so); americans see it rather as an all-out moral battle, where the majority should be able to impose its morality, whether or not everyone else agrees that we should legislate morality at all.

In some (rather perverted sense?) americans are rousseauists, believing in the dictatorship of the majority. Europeans, on the other hand, have basically introduced an informal separation between morals and state.

December 8, 2007

no, i will not post on the scientology story!

I might well be living in Germany where anything approaching unconventional or authoritarian is forcefully frowned upon for historical reasons that go back beyond the middle of the twentieth century no matter what you might have heard; and i might even have been to Berlin, though that was a long time ago. I might even be writing a thesis on the philosophy of religion. I might be running an ethics cum religion blog that even dabbles in science and, more importantly, has too often stooped to posting the least worthwhile junk out there on the internets. And i have never really liked Tom Cruise as an actor (except in Magnolia; his wonderful erstwhile wife, the splendiferous Nicole Kidman, is however an entirely different matter, if only for her most gigantuous performance in The Hours, though Dogville shouldn’t be left unmentioned, of course, however depressing the movie might be) and don’t really care about his religious proclivities. But i don’t know the first thing about scientology, so i’ll put an end to this post that is not about scientology, germany or the latter banning the former, or trying to, or even thinking about it.

October 9, 2007

google trends on religion and morality

In honor of the pew report on religion and morality of a previous post, i decided to do a little more google science. Pew reported that Europe didn’t see any need for god or religion to uphold morality, whereas the rest of the world did, the US being (as usual) divided on the subject matter. So here is how Europe (acutally France) googles religion and morality (“religion, morale”):

As you can see, even in secular France religion and morality are closely tied in people’s minds (or fingers at least). In the US the correlation (“religion, ethics”) is, however, much stronger:

 The correlation on the US graph is quite incredible. Though of course it does not allow us to tell if the googlers think ethics and religion are positively or negatively linked.

But India, my representant of “the rest of the world”, displays surprisingly no obvious correlation at all:

To explain the India graph, we could assume either that Indians do not worry about the question themselves (and therefore don’t google it) but are willing to answer our Western surveyors and tell them the two are inseparable, or the concepts of “religion” and “morality” don’t really correspond to standard ideas in their culture. I gather it is a bit of both, the second reason causing the first: in india the distinction is simply not made. The first explanation is supported by the non-correlation of the graphs; the second explanation is supported by the almost random-walk nature of the two graphs.

June 2, 2007

what’s left of christianity?

Well, i’m back to posting, people.

An interesting take on the current evolution of religion: Dolan Cummings asks on Culture WarsWhat’s left of Christianity?” In reviewing a few new books on the subject he claims that christianity is not so much going to disappear as we once thought, but is becoming or has already become (in Europe at least) politically irrelevant and thus exclusively personal. As far as i can tell, his assessment is right on.

It is not so much that religion is finished, then, as that it is subject to something analogous with natural selection. It is the survival of the fittest, with fitness defined as the ability to cater to a more personalised conception of spirituality that speaks to people as individuals with their own concerns and desires, and even offers relief from the external regulation and surveillance experienced in other spheres, from education to work.

Indeed, it is a measure of the detachment of religion from political power that religious groups are ‘allowed’ to hold all kinds of eccentric opinions. People can believe whatever they want on religious questions because it doesn’t really matter. When Christianity was at the centre of power and political life, doctrinal disputes had real urgency, political movements rose and fell and wars were fought over the correct interpretation of the one true faith. Today, only constitutional anoraks worry about the political consequences of the established church’s doctrines, and those who do object argue quite rightly for disestablishment rather than seeking to correct this or that point of belief. In any case, it has become something of a running joke that the Church of England doesn’t really believe in anything anyway. Anglicanism, bumbling affably along, seems to embody the fate of religion adapting to survive in relativistic times.

April 9, 2007

benedict XVI and the dechristianizing of europe

A long article in the NYT about the catholic pope who wants to turn western europe back from its secular ways. But no one really thinks that will happen:

His argument, elaborated in the years leading up to his election and continuing through his daily speeches and pronouncements, reduces to something like this: Secularism may be one of the great developments in history, but the secularism that holds sway in much of the West — that is, in Western Europe — is flawed; it has a bug in its programming. The mistaken conviction that reason and faith are two distinct realms has weakened Europe and has brought it to the verge of catastrophic collapse. As he said in a speech in 2004: “There exist pathologies in religion that are extremely dangerous and that make it necessary to see the divine light of reason as a ‘controlling organ.’ . . . However . . . there are also pathologies of reason . . . there is a hubris of reason that is no less dangerous.”

I don’t think christianity will revive in western europe, certainly not in any recognizable form. Spirituality and ‘organized ethics’ might well. If Europe is going to become religious again, it will have to be a secular religion – something that might indeed stand up to science and technology and say: “Enough is enough” but certainly not something that will flaunt reason or fall back into hopeless mysticism.

March 29, 2007

Philip Jenkins on the religious and immigrant future of Europe

a very good and thorough interview with Philip Jenkins on Europe, the US, immigration, religion, Africa, Asia, well just about everything.

March 29, 2007

france and multiculturalism

something else the ‘french’ are doing right:

With French long engaged in a losing battle against English around the world, a new way of fighting back has been proposed by a multinational group of authors who write in French: Uncouple the language from France and turn French literature into “world literature” written in French.

For guardians of the language of Molière, Voltaire and Victor Hugo, this is tantamount to subversion.

But the 44 signatories of a manifesto published in the newspaper Le Monde this month are in a rebellious mood. They argue that it is time for the French to stop looking down on francophone authors, as foreigners writing in French are known, because these very novelists – many, but not all, from former French colonies – hold the key to energizing French literature.

For this, they say, French must be freed from “its exclusive pact” with France.

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