Tuesday, 13 April 2004

religion and violence

Madeleine Bunting, who was once the Religious Affairs correspondent of the paper, has an opinion column in the Guardian entitled In death there is life. Part of it:

Western secular societies and Islamists regard themselves as polar opposites. They are both wrong.

For Christians, Easter is not just a bloody crucifixion (any inadequacy of imagination on the gory details now finds ample remedy in Mel Gibson’s rendition), but the resurrection - the monumental act of redemption for all humankind. Hence, from the violence comes a message of astonishing optimism.
For all the faults of the church institutions (and there are many) that perpetuate this faith, it seems to me that this is a strikingly hopeful and honest account of human experience. In contrast, western secular culture has relegated death and suffering to the role of entertainment - it’s on celluloid that we love death - or it has been tidied away as subject to the last remaining taboos. In an age of gleaming white smiles from every billboard, who finds it easy to acknowledge or to understand their suffering?
All of this comes close to sounding like nonsense (though they might be too polite to say so) to a large proportion of people in Europe in what historians of religion now call the “spiritual icebelt”. This is the only part of the globe in which secularisation has dug deep and lasting roots since the second world war. Social theorists complacently assumed for several decades that secularisation was inevitable and irreversible all over the globe. The conclusion that many drew was that there was no point trying to understand religion, because it was a belief system that would wither on the vine. The result is a widespread ignorance and lack of understanding of the religious imagination, and it is usually accompanied by the secularist’s unexamined faith in their own beliefs; for example, an astonishingly naive belief in human beings’ rationality.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 13 April 2004 at 10:58 PM GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion