Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Here is a piece I wrote for our local paper Arbroath Herald on 26 August 2011 edition.

The call to live a life of love

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence”. Erich Fromm

The last issue of Philosophy Now, a highly regarded publication in the field of philosophy, and which has as one of its main aims to make philosophy accessible to the masses, was dedicated entirely to the subject of Love. The subtitle of this issue is ‘What is love’. In a number of articles the authors seek to explore this very important issue for our human existence. The authors seek to address the nature of love from both nonreligious but also from a religious perspective. The general consensus of the authors is that love is the ingredient that we humans can’t live without.

In one of the articles, Is Love and Art, Kathleen O’Dwyer explores the questions of what we mean by love and how we humans should express it. Her attempt to define “mature and perfect love” leads her to describe love in very similar terms as Christians understand the love of God for humanity. In her words “real love is motivated by the urge to give and to share rather than by the desire to fulfil one’s own needs or to compensate for one’s inadequacies”. This is a self-giving love which does not expect reciprocity, a love that respects the other for what he/she is. This love is based not on desire to control but on the desire to care for the other with respect and humility. This kind of love makes one vulnerable and risks self-exposure.

When we talk about practising this love Erich Fromm, a French philosopher, argued that love is not primarily about a relationship to a specific person but, love should be an attitude, a way of living, “an orientation of character” which should determine all our relationships, our relatedness.

It was so fitting for a publication like Philosophy Now to focus on the subject of love at this time, as today more than ever the issue of love is so relevant and urgent to our world. Our lives and our society seem more and more removed from forms of relatedness that are governed by love.

In the recent past we as a society have experienced a number of crisis that have shaken the foundations of our social order, and let us just remember a few: crisis in our political system when our politicians were exposed for fiddling their expenses, leading to loss of credibility in the system; The economic and financial systems have been discredited by the greed and intemperance of many and as a result we are still living in a turmoil which by all means does not seem to be ending soon; The recent telephone hacking scandal has also brought a cloud of suspicion over our press and even the police. The massacre that happened in Norway, coupled with the terrorist threats, show the extent of hate towards “the different other” and desire for harm the other, which exists in our society.

God has shown us his perfect love in action, as he came to us in Jesus. We see in Jesus’ life and death the manifestation of God’s love in action. Therefore we are challenged and called to be transformed by that love and as a result live by it and build our relationships by it. It is an urgent call for all of us to rediscover and live out that love, no matter in which institutions (religious or otherwise) we are, in whatever stations of life (young or old) we find ourselves, and with whichever system of belief. Only when we seek to live by this principle of love, only then we would be able to live balanced personal lives and build a fair and happy society.

“For one human being to love another; that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation” Rainer Maria Rilke.

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Quote of the day

“And so let me end as I began: if we can elevate religious values to the heart of the debate about global development and our global society, can we continue to consign religious values to only the fringes of the debate about the future of our national economies and societies?

My religion and reason tell me that we cannot for long be truly happy in any place when we see opportunities denied in every place; we cannot feel fully secure at any time when we know millions are feeling insecure just about all the time; and we cannot be wholly comfortable anywhere when the left out millions are found everywhere.

So I conclude; yes, for people of faith there is the risk of the sin of commission. So we must be humble enough to guard against theocratic error when faith enters the public square. But yes too, there is a greater risk, the sin of omission and we must never again allow the voices of faith to feel excluded from their rightful role. So let the trumpet sound. The voices of faith must and will be heard.”

Faith in Politics? Lecture by Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister of GB

on Wednesday 16 February 2011 hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury

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Quote of the day

“A land does not become sacred simply because God is present in the churches, mosques and synagogues. It is sacred because God is kept alive in the hearts and minds of ordinary citizens through their daily acts of love and kindness to each other.”

Prof. Mona Siddiqui, BBC Thought for the Day, 16 November 2010

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“The picture of religion that emerges from New Atheism is a caricature and both misrepresents and underestimates its real New Atheism RIPcharacter”. Caspar Melville Beyond New Atheism, in the Guardian

Caspar Melville, a defender of New Atheism (at least up until yesterday) seems to suggest that this movement is a FAD (my own interpretation) and might have reached its end of the road and now it is time to move beyond New Atheism. In this article he seems to suggest that New Atheism, and its prophets (where he is one among them), are wrong in a lot of things. He is not shy to also admit that there is (or there was?) an economic benefit for this a-religious movement (they did not manage to build themselves an equivalent to a ‘Vatican state’ yet). It is no doubt that the High Priest Dawkins has also pocketed a small fortune from this enterprise.

I wonder how will this ‘beyond New Atheism’ look like? Suggestions please.

Mark Vernon attended the event Caspar Melville mentions in his article wrote a post about it on his blog. Not sure what agenda was/is beyond this apparent ‘shift’?

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Whenever I hear Christians bashing ‘secularism’ I wonder what do they mean and have they really considered what secularism is before joining the bandwagon. I wonder if secularism (as a concept) has been hijacked (as humanism has been) by extreme ideologies which skew its meaning to either get popularity or to find a hobby horse. In this process the concept is emptied of it’s wider meaning and devalued. For example modern humanism traces it’s birth within the Christian context – and I am bemused how today is used with such impunity to claim exclusion of faith.

Last week I heard the Pope bash again secularism as one of the ills of our society. While I agree that the Catholic Church might have an axe to grind with secularism – as the arrival of secularism announced the demise of political power for the Catholic Church – I don’t understand why this has to be a threat to Christians and their faith. The Protestant church, to my knowledge (and I am not a church historian), has been an advocate of secularism (well with some exceptions) since the Reformation. Secularism for me in simple terms means separating the political from religious and in practical terms making a safe space for all where religion does not dictate to society what to do but at the same time it is not excluded from society – an alternative to theocracy. Secularism per-se does not, and cannot, eliminate faith out of the public sphere – otherwise it looses it’s core principle – neutrality. Secularism is not atheism.

Simon Barrow with other members of Ekklesia have done recently a good amount of work to try and reclaim secularism as a concept.

Evan Harris published at the weekend a Secularist Manifesto in the Guardian which I find to fit with what I think secularism is. There is nothing in this manifesto that I could not say amen to and I don’t think many Christians would object to the ethos of this manifesto (some Christians though might find some aspects harder to accept). Here are the main points:

“A manifesto for secularist change would look like this:

1. Protect free religious expression that does not directly incite violence or crimes against others or publicly and directly cause someone distress or alarm.

2. End discrimination against nonreligious belief systems or organisations.

3. End unjustified religious discrimination


I would be interested in feedback.

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Last week Intelligence Squared held this debate on whether the form of atheism represented by among others A.C. Grayling and Richard Dawkins is a New Fundamentalism.

You can watch in full here:


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The coordinator of the atheist bus campaign, Ariane Sherine, has just announced that the final phase of atheist (last ‘installments’) bus adverts are being displayed this week in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast (the capitals), however not on buses this time but on billboards! The adverts target the indoctrination of children.

I wonder whether one could argue that the neo-atheists are in their turn a kind of indoctrinating preachers? Should not Dawkins’ children summer camps be seen also as ‘indoctrinating’ camps? I hope that Ariane sees the irony of this last campaign!

Here is the poster as published on the Guardian site:

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Washington Post recently published a piece in which Richard Dawkins defends the Anglican Church against the Catholic initiative to accept Anglican Clergy. I would have never expected Richard to defend a church such as he does in this article. His  partisan views are so obvious as it is his vitriolic attack on the Catholic church.

What a surprise that even atheists take sides in inter church diplomatic disasters! He does however justify his intervention on political grounds: the Anglican church is part of the ‘establishment’ and has political influence (bishops in the upper house of the Parliament)!????

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Guardian published an article written by Hans Kung, the well known Catholic Theologian about the Pope’s recent initiative towards the Anglicans. Kung describe the current Pope as “stubborn and intransigent”. Some may argue that there is some bad blood between Kung and Ratzinger. However I think that Kung’s criticism needs to be taken seriously. Here are some of his remarks:

“The Fisher of Men is angling in waters of the extreme religious right.”

“Pope Benedict is set upon restoring the Roman imperium. He makes no concessions to the Anglican communion. On the contrary, he wants to preserve the medieval, centralistic Roman system for all ages – even if this makes impossible the reconciliation of the Christian churches in fundamental questions.”

“The old-fashioned call for a “return to Rome” raises its ugly head again, this time through the conversion particularly of the priests, if possible, en masse.”

“Just as we have seen over many centuries – in the east-west schism of the 11th century, in the 16th century Reformation and in the First Vatican Council of the 19th century – the Roman thirst for power divides Christianity and damages its own church. It is a tragedy.”

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This week the Vatican announced that they are going to open the way for the Anglicans to join the Catholic Church and making provision for those that join to keep some of their Anglican traditions. As one that worked for a number of years closely with Catholics, Anglicans, Scottish Episcopalian, etc.. this move from the Vatican saddens me so much. I have so much respect for my brothers and sisters from the Catholic Church, but personally I have lost respect for the current Pope. I think he has made so many blunders over the past few years (see for example: daming all other churches as non churches, ambivalent attitudes towards paedophile priests, embracing the Nazi bishop, making stupid comments about condoms and HIV, etc …), and as such discredited the office, caused a lot of damage to the Ecumenical movement and has damaged the reputation of the Catholic Church.

Taking this action without full consultation with an Ecumenical Partner the Vatican under the direction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (previously known as the Inquisition department) have showed not just disrespect but lack of judgement and un-Christian like behaviour. It is also surprising to hear that the decision was taken with disregard to the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, the body that does ‘ecumenical’ work on behalf of Rome. Out of this episode I think that Rowan has shown again character and in the long term I feel that this move rather than weakening the Anglican Church it will liberate Her. The Catholic Church in the long term has lost.

Now it seems that through his actions the Pope shows his character of an inquisitor, intolerant and one might be forgiven by suggesting that his Nazi past is catching up with him after all. His visit to the UK next year will be for sure overshadowed by what happened this week. The Pope in his wisdom (or better say foolishness) has undone much of the constructive ecumenical work that has taken place over the past decades. I stand to be disproved, but I feel this was one of the sadest moments for Christian witness and testimony in this generation.

I wonder if the Vatican’s pronouncement this week was made to overshadow the publication of a report in Ireland on child abuse and paedophilia in the last century under the Catholic Church instruction. A thought to ponder on! See the Article in the Times.

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