X Close

Why we need religious conflict The murder of David Amess suggests difficult conversations must be had

A mural of David Amess in Southend. Dan Kitwood/Getty


October 21, 2021   4 mins

When Rod Liddle was the editor of the Today programme he had the bright idea of encouraging much more religiously conservative voices onto Thought for the Day. Perhaps even what we euphemistically call “radical” ones. What did the higher-ups at the BBC think of this? Tune into Radio 4 at ten to eight to hear… someone telling us that we might be going to hell for being gay?  Inevitably, the idea came to nothing.

But you can also see Liddle’s point. If “radicals” are excluded from the public conversation, how are they ever to be drawn into dialogue – that apparently magical crucible in which hate and suspicion is transformed into understanding. Yet isn’t that precisely the promise held out by interfaith encounter?

The murder of Sir David Amess, a committed Roman Catholic, apparently by an Islamic radical, once again raises the question of whether the interfaith encounter works.

For centuries human beings of different faith perspectives have met together to try and 
 well, try and what exactly? When Nachmanides met with Dominican and Franciscan theologians in 1263 for a formal disputation on the fundamentals of faith, the purpose seemed to be to persuade the “other side” that they were wrong. Accounts of the famous Disputation of Barcelona vary, but both sides did their polemical best to say why the other was mistaken. It was tense — of course it was. And the Christian account tells of Nachmanides fleeing from the scene.

These days, interfaith dialogue — on the ground at least — rarely allows itself to visit areas of controversy. In primary school, religious studies classes are, more often than not, existentially anaemic encounters. Different faith traditions are presented alongside each other without the tension created by wondering which one may be true. Lesson plans emphasise things like food traditions among religions, where you liking Halal lamb curry and me liking Jollof rice (definitely a religious tradition in my parish) describes differences without the need to introduce conflict over who is right. After all, what is more subjective than our taste buds. It’s all perfectly understandable. Who wants to import the tensions of the world into a classroom?

But that’s the dilemma: either interfaith discussion directly addresses the issues that divide people of faith, including the more conservative ones (who globally speaking, are in the majority) and accepts that quite a lot of friction and heat will be created — offence, shouting, walk outs — or it avoids the real tensions between people of faith, in which case it is deathly dull and, therefore, useless.

Most people don’t want to give up their precious evenings for shouting matches in an atmosphere of extreme tension. Who would? Most religious conservatives already think they’re right anyway. They don’t want to open up an audience to potentially liberalising speakers either. So interfaith groups tend to be dominated by those who don’t really need them: well-meaning people; keen to stress the common denominators amongst people of faith.

There’s a view that suggests secularism uses these meetings between the faiths to muscle into their territory. Not as an impartial umpire, but something more. One way of describing the rise of a secular society is that it was driven by the need to provide a public space free from religious sectarianism — open to all, not dominated by any.

But secularism is itself divided on a continuum between those who want to offer a level playing field for all — including religious people — to flourish, and those who, frankly, seek the elimination of the religious perspective from public life entirely. (This is the difference between American and French secularism.)

The involvement of secularists within interfaith discussion is doubly complicated by the suspicion that secularism has an interest in keeping religious tension going. Historically speaking at least, religious tension is the reason that secularism has justified its existence.

Ironically perhaps, secularism also unites those of faith. Especially the conservatives. They see a common enemy, who they regard as seeking to silence them.

The former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks of blessed memory, who went to a Church of England primary school, was of the view that one of the vocations of the Church of England was to provide all people of faith with a platform in the public realm. He also thought that this required something sacrificial from the Church of England, downplaying its proselytising instincts in favour of this more inclusive mission. All people in my parish, regardless of faith, are somehow my spiritual responsibility. It is also true that the current mood in the Church of England for mission and evangelism does create a certain tension with Sacks’s way of understanding its role.

I wonder if interfaith dialogue can be truly revived. Disagreement, even full-blown dispute, will have to be part of any resurrection of this great tradition. Breaking bread and making friends is one — important — aspect of such talks. But we must beware of such groups avoiding the difficult points of disagreement between us and indeed limiting themselves to liberal believers. This means that interfaith groups must accept that they will always be poised in an uncomfortable place between solidarity and disagreement, the greater the former always allowing for more of the latter.

It can happen. Last week, I addressed a local meeting of the Council for Christians and Jews (CCJ). That night, as trust was  established, more difficult questions could be asked — about the Messiah (same issue in Barcelona in the 13th century), about Christian anti-Semitism, about Zionism.

This fragile dynamic between trust and challenge is easily damaged. My own feeling is that we are still not there in our conversations between Christianity and Islam, or between Judaism and Islam for that matter. There continue to be many perils in such encounters. Danger one is subjectivism: your truth is just as good as my truth. No one really thinks that anyway, it’s just a convenient way of not coming to blows. Danger two is coming to blows, or the verbal equivalent with encounters collapsing into acrimony and insult.

I called up Rod Liddle to confirm the story about Thought for the Day. It’s true. He explains that when he said he wanted Abu Hamza doing the slot it was a joke. But he did think it was a real problem “having people from very different faith traditions constantly saying the same thing.” — as if there was no real disagreement.

I totally agree. We need to be braver in exploring our divisions. And dig deeper into our resources of kindness and patient listening to one another as we do so. I suspect that people who are confident in their own faith are better able to achieve this. Which is why we need to be less frightened of division if we seek to become more united in our understanding. Even if it means we all end up running away like Nachmanides did.


Giles Fraser is a journalist, broadcaster and Vicar of St Anne’s, Kew.

giles_fraser

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

89 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
R S Foster
R S Foster
2 years ago

…becames very problematic when a faith originally of the poor and dispossessed, where “turning the other cheek” is absolutely central to the world-view it engenders…is face-to-face with one originating amongst desert warlords and originally spread by fire, sword and slavery…all of which are legitimated by it’s sole, definitive and unalterable text.
There is a certain unavoidable imbalance between the bright-eyed enthusiasm of the acolytes of the first to “live and let live”…and the ruthless determination of the other side to only allow others to live as second-class citizens in sometimes rather brutal subservience…Jizya, Devshirme, ISIS, the Taliban…that sort of thing…
…to which I should add, devout Muslims must live with the uneasy knowledge that the “extremists” can very easily claim that it is they that are obeying God’s written instructions as passed on by His Prophet…and allege that those seeking Qu’ranic justification for a “live and let live” approach are doing so only because they too cowardly to take the war to the enemy as their honoured predecessors right down to the Mahdi…and even the last Ottoman Sultan (and Caliph) did.
Islam assumes that if you are in the majority, you are in charge and others live according to your rules in the Dar al-Islam…and everwhere else is up for grabs…as the Dar al-Harb, or at best Dar al-Sulh…

Last edited 2 years ago by R S Foster
David Parry
David Parry
2 years ago
Reply to  R S Foster


becames very problematic when a faith originally of the poor and dispossessed, where “turning the other cheek” is absolutely central to the world-view it engenders

Depends on which interpretation of Christianity you’re talking about.

is face-to-face with one originating amongst desert warlords and originally spread by fire, sword and slavery


Christianity has been spread by fire and sword just as surely as Islam has. As for slavery, that’s a product of class-based modes of production, with religion at most being a convenient rationalisation.

all of which are legitimated by it’s sole, definitive and unalterable text.

They’re legitimised by the Qu’ran to the same extent that they’re legitimised by the Bible, and Islam no more demands a static interpretation of its texts than Christianity does.

Islam assumes that if you are in the majority, you are in charge and others live according to your rules in the Dar al-Islam
and everwhere else is up for grabs
as the Dar al-Harb, or at best Dar al-Sulh


Islam is not a monolith. There is no necessary relationship between Islam and support for theocracy and imperialism any more than there is between Christianity and those things.

Lazy, trite, simplistic, essentialist characterisations (positive or negative) of religions, especially those with (nominally) as many adherents as Christianity and Islam, do nothing to advance understanding on an intellectual level.

Last edited 2 years ago by David Parry
R S Foster
R S Foster
2 years ago
Reply to  David Parry

…I think the Bible is pretty clear on turning the other cheek, and indeed rendering unto Caesar…I’m not sure the Qu’ran recognises either concept…Christianity operated at the margins of society for hundreds of years, and even after Constantine made it the State Religion, it took some centuries before the theologians were willing to concede ideas like “Just War” to the secular authorities…
…slavery for unbelievers is mandated in the Qu’ran (hence it’s re-introduction by ISIS) and was practiced in the Islamic World for a millenium before the Western involvement in this shameful trade, and was still being practiced during and after European and especially British attempts to put it down; often and explicitly driven by Christian sentiments amongst the abolitionists…
…and I am not saying Muslim States are a monolith, but simply referring to the nature of Islamic Society mandated by the Qu’ran…as dictated by God, and in consequence not to be tampered with…
…and I suggest that asserting a broad equivalence where none really exists is at least as “Lazy, trite and simplistic…” as laying out some very real differences, albeit with a broad brush.
I’ll leave it for the voting readership to decide whose case has the greatest merit…

David Parry
David Parry
2 years ago
Reply to  R S Foster


I think the Bible is pretty clear on turning the other cheek, and indeed rendering unto Caesar


And yet there have been plenty of interpretations of Christianity that have attached less weight to those things.

Christianity operated at the margins of society for hundreds of years, and even after Constantine made it the State Religion, it took some centuries before the theologians were willing to concede ideas like “Just War” to the secular authorities


The point is that Christianity just as surely as Islam has been a legitimising force for imperialism, and imperialism, just as with Islam, has been a highly efficient means of propagating the religion.


slavery for unbelievers is mandated in the Qu’ran

There are passages in the Qu’ran which seem to endorse and mandate slavery, just as there are such passages in the Bible.

was still being practiced during and after European and especially British attempts to put it down; often and explicitly driven by Christian sentiments amongst the abolitionists


I would say that the British empire was motivated by self interest more than anything. Having recognised that chattel slavery was ceasing to be profitable, Britain didn’t want to be outcompeted by other economies that still relied upon it.

I am not saying Muslim States are a monolith

I said ‘Islam’, not ‘Muslim states’.

simply referring to the nature of Islamic Society mandated by the Qu’ran
as dictated by God,

Which depends on whose interpretation of the Qu’ran you go with.

I suggest that asserting a broad equivalence where none really exists

The things you criticise about Islam absolutely do have parallels in Christianity.

laying out some very real differences

The differences you talk about don’t really exist. Christianity is not inherently benign, peace-loving and benevolent and Islam is not inherently imperialistic, militaristic and characterised by a desire to subjugate.

albeit with a broad brush.

Applying a broad brush to a fault, to say the least.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  David Parry

Very real differences once you leave out the old testament – which was the product of a much older, cruder consciousness – you would have noticed ??

David Parry
David Parry
2 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Jesus said ‘Do not think I have come to bring peace. I have not come to bring peace but a sword.’
You might dismiss this as an idiom. Christians of centuries gone by would likely have disagreed. The point is that the potential basis of support for a militaristic message exists in the New Testament as well as in the Old.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  David Parry

fair enough but there was a lot of spin added to his basic message between ad 33 and ad 133 to ad333 etc – and tis obviously pretty silly to view the whole of the bible as directly inspired by a loving God. However most Christians (of any denomination) would not support putting non christians to the sword as directed by their ‘holy text’ – dunno what the % of muslims would be if they had that choice – and am not keen to find out…at least christianity has (mostly) progressed from a medieval type mindset – not so Islam

David Parry
David Parry
2 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Again with the lazy, broad-brush, essentialist characterisations. Islam is not a monolith, and nor is Christianity, for that matter.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
2 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

“Cruder consciousness?” Please ! The compilation of Jewish law, Torah, Talmud, Nevi’im, and Mishnah can hardly be called “crude consciousness”. Study and learn.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  David Parry

I don’t like any religion but if I had to choose I’d take Christianity over Islam any day of the week and twice on Sundays. You keep referring to the past. I’m focused on the here and now and it’s not Christians blowing up little kids in the name of Jehovah

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  David Parry

The Bible has an Old Testament and a New Testament, which has Jesus, meek and mild, in it. There is no such equivalent in the Koran. At least Christianity’s later ‘abrogation’ is the peaceable version, the opposite is true in the Koran. Also Christianity has been through a Reformation so your version of Christianity is a few hundred years out of date. So forgive me for not taking your comment seriously as it is not borne out in the real world. Anywhere Islam has power is a hellhole, this is true on available metric. Turkey only an exception because Kemal Ataturk neutered Islam and made Turkey a secular state, to its great benefit (well for now anyway)…

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

The Bible has an Old Testament and a New Testament, which has Jesus, meek and mild, in it.

The meek and mild Jesus taking up sticks and whipping the tax collectors and money changers out of the Temple comes to mind.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Lloyd Byler

Wasn’t that his instinct for justice. After all he was accusing them of exploiting the poor.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  David Parry

Christianity has been spread by fire and sword just as surely as Islam has. As for slavery, that’s a product of class-based modes of production, with religion at most being a convenient rationalisation.

Seriously?
Only in response to getting killed by the rampages of Islamic extremism, did the Christian crusades happen.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
2 years ago

When Dante reaches the heaven of the Sun in the Paradiso, he meets great theological luminaries of various faiths who on Earth had disagreed to the point of declaring each other heretics, no mean accusation in the medieval world.

What they realise now, sub specie aeternitatis, is that the very passion of their disputes, freely expressed, was but a narrowed, fallen form of the fierce love that comes from God – and which they now know aright, not dividing them but uniting them under its outpouring on all, like the light of the Sun.

Passion and unity can, in fact, coexist.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

None of which rescues Mohammed from his extremely painful (and eternal) predicament in the lower depths of Hell, where Dante’s “Inferno” had placed him.

Moreover, even the Paradiso works from Dante’s prior assumption that in both the next world and this, it is Christianity – as taught by the Roman Catholic Church – that is eternally true.

Mark Vernon
Mark Vernon
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

I don’t actually think that is so. On my reading, it becomes clear to Dante that the infernal state is one in which you see only by your own lights. That’s what it is to be in the literalist, repetitious domain of hell. Hence in the same bolga he sees the prophet, he also sees Bertran de Born, who literally sees only by his own light – his head become a lantern.

Then, by the Paradise, he is seeing much more widely and truthfully, and completely radicalising the official church view – as, say, in the heaven of Jupiter when he realises all sorts of souls are present, Christian, Jewish and pagan. Non-Christian Indians and Africans are also celebrated for knowing more of God than many Christians.

It’s a dynamic text of perceptual transformation, which begins where Dante is at and takes him elsewhere, to eternity.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Mark Vernon

What a pleasure to read some sensitive informed spirituality. Thankyou!

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Why not just dialogue as humans and enjoy common human experiences? Why not express respect for positive traditions? Theology, like Brexit, is best avoided until human respect and trust have been achieved.
The most divisive thing is politics and especially our present pandemic of identity politics. It demolishes our common humanity by forcing people into artificial boxes and demanding conformity in behaviour and thinking.
In terms of the article’s theme:
“My own feeling is that we are still not there in our conversations between Christianity and Islam, or between Judaism and Islam for that matter.”
I would like to add in ‘conversations between Sunni and Shia’ as that conflict is most egregious in its consequences.

Last edited 2 years ago by Peter LR
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

“Theology like Brexit…” Oh, dear!

Hersch Schneider
Hersch Schneider
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

You win Brexit shoehorn of the day. Take it to the Guardian comments, you’ll get 100 upticks

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Hersch, I like Brexit!

Zac Chave-Cox
Zac Chave-Cox
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

I think you might want to add commas round the “like Brexit”, took me a few reads to get what you were saying!

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago
Reply to  Zac Chave-Cox

Thanks, Zac.

Sandi Dunn
Sandi Dunn
2 years ago

As an atheist I don’t care what humans believe in as long as they have taken up their beliefs post 18 , as adults.
My Catholic childhood was ruined by the teaching of hell and burning for eternity.It was /is psychological abuse. I don’t know if this still goes on in Catholic primary schools Or C of E but I hear that this terrorIsing of Muslim children goes on in Maddrassers in the U.K. and that this mental abuse is allowed it seems.
I have no idea of what horrors Jewish children are subjected to. Perhaps we will find out on ‘UnHerd’

Sue Sims
Sue Sims
2 years ago
Reply to  Sandi Dunn

Childhoods are very easy to ruin. Born in 1952, mine was ruined by the prospect of nuclear war: all my nightmares were of a bomb dropping (with various weirdnesses one expects in dreams), and I was terrified every time I heard a plane overhead.
Teachings about Hell will certainly make children frightened. But of course, the question that needs to be considered is whether the teachings are true, not whether children are scared. And that needs actual argument, not scornful dismissal about scaring children. (I should add that I am an adult convert from atheism to Catholicism, so do have a dog in this fight.)

Nicholas Rowe
Nicholas Rowe
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

Some kindly adult should have pointed out to you as a child that if you heard an aircraft it wouldn’t have been one carrying a nuclear weapon. Your childhood could have been repaired in such an easy fashion.
There are many people who are looking for reasons not to believe in Christianity.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Sims

mine was ruined by the prospect of nuclear war: all my nightmares were of a bomb dropping (with various weirdnesses one expects in dreams), and I was terrified every time I heard a plane overhead.

Blame the neocons.

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
2 years ago
Reply to  Sue Sims


and mine was ruined by birth mother abandonment at 9 months; wicked stepmother and violently abusive male parent. People put their genitals together and think it makes them parents.
I thank God for His grace in saving me at the age of 32; that in revealing the LORD Jesus, I can now say the words ‘Father’ and ‘love’ in the same sentence without being sick.
To all you knowitall – medieval? made up? try asking credentialled Hebrew scholars – scoffers: Albert Einstein knew a thing or two about unseen dimensions so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago
Reply to  Sandi Dunn

Is it intolerant to move smartly on from anything that begins with “as an atheist…”?

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago

some of us would just think it was sensible since perhaps that person still has a lot of thinking ahead of them :). I have always thought that to be an atheist required rather a lot of arrogance since one would be stating that one has figured out the whole structure of reality and the universe – quite some acheivement !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Sandi Dunn

Likewise experienced the Catholic thing- and I have zero doubt that it is much worse in Islamic schools. At least with the catholics you went to hell in the NEXT life if you did not play the game vs being possibly executed if you left ‘the church’ in the islamic “game”. Islam is in the same headspace as the reformation “Christian’ wars – do we really want that medieval , and often dangerous , mentality living amongst us. Ah all those naive integrationists who were/are so much wiser than the rest of us ….

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Sandi Dunn

The primary problem with the Catholic form of education is that it’s ‘confessional’ Meaning that it’s purpose is not to educate you about christianity per se, but to prepare children, for their first communion – which a rite of the church. There’s a subtle but important difference. This oddest exist outside the Catholic Tradition as the Protestant traditions have differing practices among themselves (most don’t have a first communion or confirmation event).

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

“My own feeling is that we are still not there in our conversations between Christianity and Islam, or between Judaism and Islam for that matter.”

That is because the people conversing are not the bright and enlightened and educated ones. I hung with a number of very high Christians and Muslims – and they got along great, respected each other. Try Prof. Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr as he has a bunch of Youtubes you should give a try,
“Seyyed Hossein Nasr (C.V.) graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology with an undergraduate degree in Physics and Mathematics. He went on to Harvard University where he studied Geology and Geophysics, and then completed a PhD in the History of Science and Philosophy.
He is a world renown scholar on Islam and is currently a University Professor at GW. He has published over fifty books and hundreds of articles in numerous languages and translations.”

He was a friend of Kevin William Barden (3 June 1908 – 4 December 2004) was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Isphan from 1974 to 1982. He had previously served as parish priest of the Dominican Church in Tehran.

We knew these guys, and there are few of their ilk today, Pity you did not get to hang with the right sort of Religious people – but times have moved on from those days I guess – people are not nearly so enlightened and educated – now days education is part indoctrination and very un-intellectual and plebeian, and I guess that is the difference – back them top people had ‘Class’ – not anymore.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Nasr was often placed (by others, I think) as part of the Traditionalist movement, alongside Guenon, Schuon, Raine, Coomaraswamy, Burkhardt and Cutsinger to name a few. The movement included thinkers of all the major religions because of – not despite – its traditionalism. They believed that true traditionalists of all the major religions had more in common with each other than differences. They rejected fundamentalism as profoundly anti-tradition.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Englander

In other words, they agreed among themselves to be united in disagreeing with and hating liberals.

Which was no resolution of their own differences; or even an attempt at one.

Judy Englander
Judy Englander
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

This is to make their movement political, which it wasn’t. And not one Traditionalist ‘hated’ anyone. They subscribed to the idea of an ancient spiritual tradition which was inherited by the traditional forms of all the major religions.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I’m always amazed that anyone could be that well-educated in science and philosophy and still cleave to that medieval, clearly made up religion. The mental gymnastics must be amazing. Childhood indoctrination really is a remarkable thing.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

back them top people had ‘Class’ – not anymore.

Blame the media for throwing divisive content and lighting it on fire with gasoline.

Caroline Martin
Caroline Martin
2 years ago

There is a need to talk. We need to talk to try to stop people being murdered by Islamists. It should not be brushed under the carpet as too embarrassing or racist or some other woke reason preventing it being discussed. We should not turn the other cheek. We should not be silent. We need to know what non violent Muslims are thinking and doing to stop this happening again and again.

Last edited 2 years ago by Caroline Martin
Dr Stephen Nightingale
Dr Stephen Nightingale
2 years ago

Since we aren’t a theocracy, the Rule of Law precedes all religious teachings. So revenge, or resentment killing is out, no matter what your written dogma says. In that framework, you can come together and disagree all you want, so long as you understand that your are contrained by the law from inflicting actual bodily harm.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

I enjoyed the article overall, but had problems with this statement:
But secularism is itself divided on a continuum between those who want to offer a level playing field for all — including religious people — to flourish, and those who, frankly, seek the elimination of the religious perspective from public life entirely. (This is the difference between American and French secularism.)
Agreed, secularism is divided between those offering a neutral space to all, and those trying to kill off spirituality of any kind. But it’s doubtful the former is American, the latter French.
When the American Stephen Pinker, being interviewed by Freddie Sayers the other day, divided the world into scientific fact vs. unreal fiction, this didn’t sound like a neutral secular space open to all. Nor when he divided the world into scientific fact vs. “myth” could I discern a neutral secular space in which I, as a spiritual person, could breathe.
Conversely, when Emanuel Macron speaks of French laĂŻcitĂ©, he does not seek elimination of a religious perspective from public life. That would limit public intellectual life in a way that would be anathema to the French. Rather, M. Macron seeks to prohibit religious evangelism and proselytising in public institutions and public spaces. This includes ostentatious display of religious devotion via jewellery, clothing, forms of speech, attempts to restrict public provision of bathing spaces, or types of food, to a particular religion’s teachings. Such displays are seen as aggressive encroachment on the neutrality of the secular space. As a spiritual person, I am entirely comfortable with French laĂŻcitĂ©, since it leaves me free to follow my own private path while protecting me from aggressive attacks from others.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

Whenever anyone discusses religion, my first thought is which religion?

Then somebody says that Christianity will save us from Islam. Which Christianity? We have the Catholics versus the Protestants versus the Eastern Orthodox. Then within those there are the various chapels, Episcopalian, Apostolic, Jehovah’s Witnesses.

If somebody will tell me which Christianity to follow, I will look at it.

Last edited 2 years ago by Chris Wheatley
Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

The Bible

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Which means different things to different people.

Which is why there is no united Protestant Church and never will be.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Which is a bit like saying “when somebody tells me which Party to follow, I’ll take an interest in politics.”

i.e. is a cop out.

If you did have an interest in Christianity, you’d investigate and make up your own mind.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Actually it is the New Testament – and you are allowed to ‘make allowances ‘ for the head space of its 2000ish years old writers. IE reinterpret for today. If you want a real challenge try “a Course in Miracles” – took me two years of regular work to get to grips with it but utterly fascinating once you get into it. Once you discard Jesus’ words to Peter “and upon this rock I will build my church’ ( a later addition/spin ) you realize the Jesus never envisioned a church type structure with all the human corruption that follows – all He ever really said was that we are all in this together so be kind to each other and it will all be good (and to listen to that small quiet voice within etc). So forget all the organised Christianity bullshit and history etc – you are probably already a “christian ” in that you listen to your conscience and are kind (love). The only other real bonus is that you can contemplate that this peice of ‘existence’ might not be ‘all there is’. Fascinating what ? Also check out Michael Newton et al on u tube – and no dont dismiss it out of hand cos its all part and parcel of the “big picture’ that if we are open to we might get glimpses of. And remember that ‘spirituality’ becomes perverted AS SOON AS humans attempt to proscribe and control it !

Nicholas Rowe
Nicholas Rowe
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Have you already found what you are looking for? That is, a reason not to believe.

Andrew D
Andrew D
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

The Catholic version is the original one, and the first port of call. If its claims are true, then no alternative is worth considering. If they’re not, likewise – the claims of Christianity fall.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew D
Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew D

The Orthodox disagrees with you.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Try following only the ‘red letters’ spoken by Christ himself and see if you feel better.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
2 years ago

I normally agree with what Giles Fraser writes here, but on this occasion I must disagree. If one is firm in one’s faith it matters not a jot what others believe – they are wrong; but they can come to the “true” faith and will be embraced. This is so for all or most faiths (I’m not sure about (ultra) orthodox Judaism so I could be corrected there); if I wanted to convert to Islam I would have no problems provided I were genuine in my desire. So, if I believed that you would roast in Hell for all eternity, I could give you my card and you could speak to me, but if you are strong in your faith you will not want to change. There is no need for argument, just live and let live.

GA Woolley
GA Woolley
2 years ago

This is the sort of article that gets written when people believe a dozen irrational things before breakfast, all of them different things, and all with utter certainty. The so called Abrahamic religions are all mutually exclusive; if one, then not the others. Islam is at least honest in stating openly that it supersedes the others, which must submit. For them ‘interfaith’ meetings are a shortcut to the top table. Once they get there, they are the top table. And as their inventor said, ‘say and do whatever is necessary to destroy my enemies’.

Dave Corby
Dave Corby
2 years ago

I will just continue loving all people as people – until they attack me or my family.
We do not need conflict. It just leads to more suffering, and death.
I am happy to explain the Truth to anyone who asks. It is the answer to every problem and it is the loving thing to do to pass it on. I will not force it on anyone.
The main debate we should be having is between ourselves, and that is how we best defend ourselves and whether we should intervene to defend others from the immorality we see.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Corby

“I am happy to explain the Truth to anyone who asks”

OK, give me some….

Dave Corby
Dave Corby
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

We did not come about by chance – we were created.
Life is something separate from this body we are in – and life is eternal.
We were all created of equal worth to our Creator – so there cannot be any place for racism or any other ideology that makes some people worth less than others.
It is only this internal, eternal, soul that matters – hence we should only judge people by their character and not the color of their skin or any other irrelevant factor.
There are 2 places we can go when we pass on from here – one is to be with our Creator and the other is to be in eternal torment (now seeing the Truth and realising you made the wrong choice).
During this time on earth we have a chance to make that choice – do we live by lies causing pain, destruction and death? Or do we live by Truth and love people to help reduce suffering and guide people to the Truth.
Every unloving action creates a debt between us and God.
The Truth is taught to us through God’s Word and especially through Jesus who demonstrated the way to God. He came to pay our debt to God – if we accept His free gift of eternal life.
We just need to acknowledge God’s authority, as our Maker, and say sorry for our sin. Then we can live in His blessings as we reap the benefits of doing things the way we were created to do them.

Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Corby

Your belief is not universal truth like laws of physics.

Dave Corby
Dave Corby
2 years ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

The laws of physics were true before we discovered them.
There is an absolute objective truth about everything whether we discovered it or not.
The point I am making is that I, like a billion others, believe we have discovered it. But unlike others, we will not force it upon you – unless its in personal defense, or defense of the defense-less. (Which is what I am saying is up for debate on the best way for this to occur.)

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Corby

We only need to acknowledge a ‘greater authority’ because that is way better for us than believing that we might know what is best and true. The ‘God thing’ does not need any acknowledgment or authority per se – it is just best for us to be humble then (as Socrates) we might be able to actually learn something useful. And of course there is no Hell – just the very bad or good feelings we will get when we re-experience how we have behaving towards other living creatures (animals and birds included) cos there IS NO DENIAL POSSIBLE in the afterlife. What does Galeti/Sanford think of that ??

MJ Reid
MJ Reid
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Corby

Rubbish. In my world there is no Creator. There is no god. So your arguments mean nothing. They are fantasy. There is no religious argument that will change my mind. Many wise men have tried and failed. Why because men invented religion to keep the masses in the place these men wanted. As a woman, I find that abhorrent.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  MJ Reid

Of course women never did anything wrong?
P.S. To suggest that it was men, with no support (emotional or otherwise) from their women is abhorrent.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lloyd Byler
Claire D
Claire D
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Corby

Thank you for putting it so clearly and succinctly.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Corby

And here is the problem with religion.

Dave Corby
Dave Corby
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

What is this problem?
Love one another, love your enemy, bless those who curse you.
Christians are taught to offer peace but to move on if not accepted.
Everyone else’s religion or ideology wants to force me to accept or do things I think are immoral.
You cannot combine all religions into one ‘problem’.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Corby

I will just continue loving all people as people – until they attack me or my family.

Precisely.
Unless and until, it is your time to die on the cross, you are allowed to take up and USE swords to protect yourself.
..and because and since Christ already died the ultimate sacrifice, no one else needs to.

ml holton
ml holton
2 years ago

Many years ago, when Pope John Paul was planning to visit Toronto, I managed to pull together a socio-religious book that included 45 essays by community leaders of 45 diverse religious ~ from Amer-Indian to Zoroastrian. Their essays outlined their faith and practices. The perspectives and rituals were wildly different. However, there was one common element visible to all: fear. Religions respond to the oft-terrifying ‘void of the unknown’. Religions provide hope & comfort when neither can be found. Most of humanity need these supportive tools to survive in any meaningful way. At core though, it is this FEAR of the UNKNOWN that perpetuates religious custom.

What’s needed is a certain degree of ‘tolerance’ for those unable to cope. This, in turn, demands leadership. ~ Unfortunately though, throughout history, ‘tolerance’ has seldom been a successful deterrent or supportive aid to devout believers or fanatics. Deep-felt ‘righteousness’ – or fundamentalism – refuses to listen or learn from foreigners or the unknown ‘Other’. The vicious cycles of FEAR continue. Too often, enlightened & reasonable secularism is still no match for those who draw on the deep wells of the sacred to ‘act’ and ‘govern’.

I compiled ‘Spirit of Toronto’ to show the Pope that Catholicism had an EQUAL, not dominant, place amongst the multicultural religious communities of Toronto, where, so far, civility and tolerance is holding.

Last edited 2 years ago by ml holton
Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
2 years ago

It’s 2021 but some are living in the year 1321 or thereabouts.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
2 years ago

Giles mentions subjectivism but surely most faith groups’ beliefs are absolute.

Tony Lee
Tony Lee
2 years ago

I thoroughly enjoy reading the author’s writings and open hearted approach to the world at large. However, my life experience leads me to wonder if religious beliefs are not as tribal in nature (for the more ardent follower) as football team supporters? There is no reasoning with the more radical elements, and the other ‘teams’ don’t exist.

robert stowells
robert stowells
2 years ago

We get the “religion” that we deserve. For instance it has been put forward that we cannot draw present day conclusions regarding the goodness of Christianity based on the torturing of heretics which went on during the time of the Spanish Inquisition because such practices of torture were of their day. As humanity has progressed so has religion but religion has typically been at the very least one (or several) steps behind. Religion is based on “faith” being a readymade set of dogmas deemed to be the truth of the reality of life or being which followers can live by. To me dogmas are like baggage or a heavy carcass or skin of garmenting that is worn by religions and their followers. Part of the baggage (like the need to torture heretics) gets dropped or shed through the centuries as the baggage lessens. Contrary to Giles Fraser’s statement that “subjectivism” is a danger I believe that subjectivism is the goal. We need to take responsibility for our beliefs and as we do so the need for baggage disappears from our lives and the need for religious dogma disappears. In my own experience, I was educated in a strict Catholic secondary school (learning Catechism by heart etc) but most of it was just water of a ducks back and it was not until I left school and scoured the library reading anything spiritual in the books of the likes of Steiner, Jung, William James, Ramacharaka, Blavatsky, Bailey and others that I gained some sense of spiritual meaning running common through all these writings but it was all “take it or leave it” and no real dogma and I did not care what source I read from.

Last edited 2 years ago by robert stowells
Nicholas Rowe
Nicholas Rowe
2 years ago

Rabbi Sacks needn’t have worried about what he imagined the Church of England’s proselytising efforts to be. Those efforts by our Bournemouth priestess at ‘Mike’s’ are so self-effacing that the Supreme Being must have cast a spirit of indifference over the good citizens of that town as an indication of His judgement of the state of any faith in that place. And especially that of His Son.
If the willingness to listen to others of a different faith is a sign of the strength of ours then neither Jesus nor Paul could have had a strong faith. Was Jesus interested in interfaith dialogue? Paul told the converts that they had once been darkness. That is, they had not just been in the dark but had been impregnated with it so as to be identified with it.
You can see why the 20 regular communicants at ‘Mike’s’ might want interfaith dialogue. It would provide a larger holy huddle than they could achieve among themselves. The fragility of all faiths is demonstrated in their need to prop each other up. Meanwhile, the truth that man doesn’t live by bread alone is evident in the religious impulse animating the new faiths, such as that of the XR True Believers.
The evangelical Edwardian Bishop of Durham, Handley Moule, wrote of that time that Christians in England dwelt by God’s mercy in a land of Christian light. That is, in Christendom. In contrast to the Ephesian converts that Paul exhorted not to ‘walk as others’, the Edwardians had every advantage. Nevertheless, Moule noted that in common with the Ephesian converts, the world was, in a certain sense, still around the Christian.
Moule wrote that not walking as others did not mean being contrary. It certainly did not mean judging them. Christianity was ‘an education in sympathy’. Not walking as others meant for the Edwardian Christian living above public opinion. Union with the Lord meant that, in line with His will, the Christian should take a line different to those who scorned religion, neglected God’s word, or who took up the latest fashionable attack on it; and a line different to those who professed religion but whose behaviour was dishonest or worse.
What is the world to us a hundred years later?

Phil Mac
Phil Mac
2 years ago

I’m pretty sure I could unite them all as I’m quite certain they all suffer from the same ridiculous delusion that supernatural beings ride the Cosmos, and they have the same daft reasons for doing so.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
2 years ago

I really need to object to Rev. Fraser’s characterization of the Disputation of Barcelona. RAMBAN did not “flee” as the loser of the debate, which he was not. He left because of persecution under the clever, if ambivalent, protection of the King. Christians should face the weakness of their doctrinal trinitarian and resurrection theology that makes no sense to the adult brain and modern man. New Covenant Christianity is not only fatally weak, it intentionally drowns the best parts of intellectual theology, the Torah, and the Talmud. Christians might also reexamine the true mission of Jesus, who was a Jew, not a magician. Jesus was a missionary, calling a flock to Jacob’s tent, Judaism. The internal debates me may have had with his own rabbinate ought not be mistaken for a rejection of the Torah and a replacement theology. Perhaps 2,000 years ago the resurrection story was appealing to the illiterate and superstitious. But today it holds little appeal, and this is why Christianity is losing to sectarianism.
Rabbi Sacks, of blessed memory, would surely have been more diplomatic than I am. He was a Prince and is sorely missed. I don’t argue that we need religious discourse. That much I agree with the author. But let’s be honest about the facts. Christianity is nothing without Judaism. Christians will be defending the trinity and resurrection until the last breath or they will move their needle slowly, to their intellectual roots, Jewish law and history. Judaism is far more in tune with the educated mind and the balance of civic and sectarian life of the individual and society.
The author’s own ambivalence shows up in his article. He is still talking about ethnic food, even though he thinks he’s speaking about something deeper. Christians and Jews share a common liturgy, traditions and values. Jews and Muslims share blood and traditions. Both Islam and Christianity need reform. They both need to move the needle.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
4 months ago

I can’t see how the resurrection story is any more unlikely than what we find in Genesis and Exodus .
To be fair the Rev Fraser’s point about different foods in interfaith discussion was that it is a trivial matter designed to keep the heat out of serious debate .But food practices are not a trivial matter to anyone who is concerned about the cruelty of ritual slaughter practices handed down from Judaism to Islam
How is Judaism not sectarian ? How is the stuff in Genesis and Exodus less implausible than the New Testament ?

Sarah H
Sarah H
2 years ago

Much else that can be said but “liking Halal lamb curry”…oh dear. Halal lamb curry tastes the same as non-halal lamb curry. Halal is not a cooking technique. It is not even limited to food. If Fraser does not know this, there is probably much else he does not know or understand. If, however, he is content to follow Sharia on what is halal and haram without scruple, he does not understand the consequences for his religion and is unreliable. It’s called renormalisation or normalisation towards the most intransigent in a given population. See Taleb.

Last edited 2 years ago by Sarah H
Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

Silence is golden, evenings are 
 precious

Interfaith dialogue sounds like 
comprehenshive road map or 
 raft of 
 messzhusss

I’ve had enough. No, I’ll have another, one more.

Oh our lives! Bless us.

Last edited 2 years ago by Dustshoe Richinrut
Charles Mimoun
Charles Mimoun
2 years ago

Why did you change the picture in the illustration?

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
2 years ago

Amen.

Michael Chambers
Michael Chambers
2 years ago

Need to hear from the ordinary person in the pew or mosque, not the high-ups who know their theology.

Ann Ceely
Ann Ceely
2 years ago

The way religious beliefs are treated in this article in no way identifies differences.

You have to consider situations, opening out about the issues ans perspectives that concrn you …

James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

Can we stop the ridiculousness? Can the religious crawl back under the rock where they belong? Why does this have to be inflicted on me in the public square? And can we stop these “inter-faith,” join hands, sing Kumbya moments? This is just virtue signalling and I find it sickening: I’m a committed Christian, but let me wash the feet of a Muslim–exactly like whites washing the feet of blacks in BLM protests. I’m a Jew, so let me go to church and sing with the Christians–look how woke I am. Can’t we all just get along?
Err….no, we can’t.
I’m an atheist. The religious are like alchemists. Some believe they can turn lead into gold. Others believe that they can turn tin into gold. Still others believe that they can turn iron into gold. They can’t! But these different groups kill each other over their primitive superstitions. Who cares what they believe? Leave me alone!
And these nutters have prominent places at the uni? Fancy degrees? Entire departments of religious studies. Doctorates of theology. Does the chemistry department grant doctorates in alchemy?
Of course things are much, much worse in the US, where whatever religious doctrine these charlatans believe has pride of place in not only the public debate, but how public $ is spent.
Sickening.
Can we stop the ridiculousness? Can the religious crawl back under the rock where they belong? Why does this have to be inflicted on me in the public square? And can we stop these “inter-faith,” join hands, sing Kumbya moments? This is just virtue signalling and I find it sickening: I’m a committed Christian, but let me wash the feet of a Muslim–exactly like whites washing the feet of blacks in BLM protests. I’m a Jew, so let me go to church and sing with the Christians–look how woke I am. Can’t we all just get along?
Err….no, we can’t.
I’m an atheist. The religious are like alchemists. Some believe they can turn lead into gold. Others believe that they can turn tin into gold. Still others believe that they can turn iron into gold. They can’t! But these different groups kill each other over their primitive superstitions. Who cares what they believe? Leave me alone!
And these nutters have prominent places at the uni! Fancy degrees. Entire departments of religious studies. Doctorates of theology. Does the chemistry department grant doctorates in alchemy?
Of course things are much, much worse in the US, where whatever religious doctrine these charlatans believe has pride of place in not only the public debate, but how public $ is spent.
Sickening.

Last edited 2 years ago by James Joyce
Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Doctrinaire, antitheist Atheism is far more sickening – and far more dogmatic !

No, religion won’t go away until suffering and death do – which is not while the present world lasts.

Meanwhile, militant Atheism is a creed for the comfortable and affluent.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago

If two scientists disagree over a matter of fact they can, empirically, settle the matter. One of them can devise a better experiment, publish in a peer-reviewed journal, and see it replicated in an independent laboratory.
Why we need religious conflict?
We don’t.
A plague on both your houses.

Tony Buck
Tony Buck
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

The only alternative to non-violent religious conflict, is violent religious conflict.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  Tony Buck

There is an alternative to religion. Just don’t believe in it.

Robert Richardson
Robert Richardson
2 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Its good to see such zeal among the faithful!

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago

ÂŁ

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
2 years ago

Nobody ever talks about the anti-Christian bias of Jews. Why is that?

Charles Mimoun
Charles Mimoun
2 years ago

Because there is not a particular  anti-Christian bias of Jews and because all religious disagreements are not violent end don’t end in terrorist attacks.
ï»ż