Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 30, 2006
Radical religion result of secularism
Conference zeroes in on relationship of faith and peace
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
David Goa says religion and public life need to be brought back together.
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
The 20th century "experiment" to drive religion from the public square has led to the radicalization of religion, says David Goa.
"It is only in a curious culture, our curious culture, that we continue to try to separate - and for curious and virtuous reasons - the religious life and much of what constitutes the political life," Goa told a conference on the relationship between religion and world peace.
"In this country and much of Europe we are children of the Enlightenment, inheriting its understandable fear of religion."
As a result, we have experimented with replacing traditional religious world views, which are the centre of all cultures, with the civil values of individualism, progress and reason, Goa said.
"It has given us modern civil societies, societies most of us treasure. Part of the cost of this is a long period in which we have not been able to think about the place of religion because of this fear born in another period of cultural war."
The Building World Peace Conference, organized by the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights, was held at the Shaw Conference Centre Oct. 20-22.
The conference brought together representatives from many faiths and cultures, including Aboriginal, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim.
Goa, director of the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life, spoke on The Holy Books: Is Religion the Problem?
"My answer is yes," says David Goa. "In my view, religion is like sex. It is powerful and capable of the highest expressions of love and of self-giving service and it is capable of being polluted and of death dealing.
"There is no way around that because it is so powerful. It is a bundle of meaning for human beings and human beings are nothing if they aren't creatures of meaning."
To move beyond the current crisis where religion and public life have been separated we have to figure out how to allow religious culture and civil values to co-exist, Goa said.
A good start would be for pre-university schools to stop leaving any references to the religious dimensions of history and culture out of the curriculum.
"My point isn't whether people pray in schools. My point is you cannot understand history and culture unless you understand the religious sources and the religious communities which have lived through it," Goa said.
"When the depth and texture of a life of faith and of religious tradition becomes part of the common knowledge of the faithful and a common public knowledge, religion will no longer be in the hands of people who are neurotic or psychotic.
"It will no longer be the problem but it will be the answer."
Letter to the Editor - 11/13/06