Sweden, by some standards one of the world’s most secular countries, has passed a new education law stipulating that public schools must teach their subjects in a “non-confessional” and “objective” manner. Joseph Ballan explores the complex boundaries and definitions of secularity and religiosity in the public arena.
Religion changes and mutates. Some of these religious mutations can be positively harmful in a changing Middle East. But other religious innovations can help religion accommodate itself to modernity, says Ahmad Sadri. It doesn’t matter whether a society has or does not have religion per se. What is important is what kind of religion or irreligion pervades in that society.
The problem for Christians today is not primarily 'aggressive secularism', but the confusion of Christianity with power, says Simon Barrow. That and the the distortion of public debate about religiosity and secularity into a false dichotomy between dominating belief or privatised belief. A better way is needed - based on living by example, not the lust for control.
Many progressive Christians found themselves experiencing profoundly mixed feelings both about Pope Benedict’s visit and about the protests against it, says Simon Barrow. This is perhaps because neither imperial religion nor rejectionist forms of secularism are adequate to the task of remaking public life and public faith.
Many Americans and Europeans are taken aback by the suggestion that collaborating with religious groups on matters of shared concern is a necessity for human flourishing in many parts of the world, says Scott Appleby. They shouldn't. Both bridge-building and bridge-burning wear many labels in today's world, secular and religious. Literacy and engagement are needed to distinguish the positive from the negative, not hardened ideology.
As Pope Benedict's visit to the UK comes to an end, I am left with a sense of sadness. Despite the words of Archbishop Vincent Nichols, attempting to paint the visit as he would perhaps have wished it to be – an endorsement of pluralism and a call to quiet dialogue rather than shrill confrontation, it seems hard to imagine a clearer example of differing cultures failing to understand each other than we have observed over the past few days.