Seeing both the positive and negative in religion

By Simon Barrow
May 6, 2008

Much of the current public discourse on 'religion' assumes that 'it' (actually a complex and multi-faceted phenomenon) is either a good or a bad thing per se.

As we have reported, the president of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering, a Catholic, has recently suggested that in parts of Europe such as the western Balkans, where internecine "wounds still require healing", spiritual leaders need to be involved in the process.

This will no doubt be greeted with a snort of derision from those who appropriate the label secularist to argue that nothing good can ever come from religious commitment.

Others will wish it to be an unqualified endorsement of a certain kind of institutional religious interest.

Rightly understood it is, rather, an invitation to discern both the positive and the negative in a very large area of human activity. That's a vital task in a plural era in which no one world view can expect to rule at the expense of others, no matter how virtuous it considers itself and how awful it considers its competitors.

A different, better way forward is needed. The challenge is to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

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