Nov 15 2010

November 2010 Newsletter

Published by under Newsletters



November 2010





“When I was twenty  ……”
Once again this month, we invited everyone present to contribute to the programme.   We asked each to speak for up to three minutes, in two paragraphs.  The first should begin, “When I was twenty ….”  and the second begin with “Now I ….”.

There will be no restrictions on what you say but we would like you to be at least a little bit self-revealing [as much as you are comfortable with] in the areas of relationships, values, spirituality or faith,  and how this works out for you in practice.   And, as in the past, you will be quite free to say “Pass”.

“God is not One”


This is the title on one of the books I [the Editor] bought at the recent SoF conference. In the opening chapter, Stephen Protheroe argues [a] that many scholars and most public opinion recently, have held that all the major world religions are different ways of heading for the same goal, but by different routes; and [b] that this is wrong.

Then, most of the book is devoted to very clear accounts [averaging 35 pages each] of  the eight most numerous and influential world religions, plus “a brief coda on atheism”. I won’t offer you a review of the book [I hope there will be one in the national Newsletter in the New Year]  but here are a few quotes that appealed to me, that may give you the flavour of it.  There is no balance about these  – Protheroe also has lots to say about Hinduism, Buddhism, Yoruba [Yes, I didn‘t know either], Judaism, Daoism and the “New Atheism”.

“At least since the … 1960s, it has been fashionable to affirm that all religions are beautiful and all are true”.

“To presume that the conversation about religions starts with Christianity is to show your parochialism, and your age.   The nineteenth and twentieth centuries may have belonged to Christianity.  The twenty-first belongs to Islam”.

“ …. Ignatius Loyola famously pledged, “What I see as white, I will believe to be black if the hierarchical Church thus determines it”.

“The path to social harmony runs through human flourishing, and human flourishing is made possible through right relations with other human beings.
These relations are, according to Confucians, hierarchical by necessity.  As John Winthrop, the first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, was about to disembark from his ship, the Arabella, and transform himself and his passengers into New Englanders, he spoke of the importance of knowing your place and staying in it.   “God Almighty, in his most holy and wise providence, hath so disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignity, others mean and in subjection,” Winthrop said.   The New World’s wilderness was wild enough without the anarchy of social climbing.  Here rich would stay rich and poor would stay poor, but all would be “knit together in this work as one man”.  Confucians too, see hierarchy as an essential ingredient of social harmony.”

“Numbers aside, Islam is the leader of the pack in terms of contemporary impact.  Many Christians render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, restricting their faith to the private realm.  Muslims, by contrast, have never accepted this public/private distinction. Most see Islam as both a religion and a way of life.  This way of life affects how they dress, what they eat, and how they invest, spend and lend their money.  So the religious commitments of Muslims have a huge impact on the world around them.”

“I must admit …  that something in me found all this God-fearing [in Islam] refreshing.   In the modern West there is so much cheap chatter about befriending God that the prospect of fearing God seems almost illicit. What German theologian Rudolf Otto once referred to as the mysterium tremendum has been squeezed out of divinity and with it the prophetic possibility of punishment for those who glory in injustice”.

“Perhaps to understand Islam is not to know but to feel  –  to feel God moving inside you like the energy that animates a dance”.

“Progressive Muslims believe that the struggle for justice lies at the heart of the Islamic tradition.  They also believe that the better angels of Islam have always been on the side of the poor and the weak, and that their tradition’s ancient mandate to defend the defenceless compels them to struggle for gender equality and human rights.  “At the heart of a progressive Muslim interpretation”, writes Safi,  “is a simple yet radical idea:   every human life, female or male, Muslim or non-Muslim, rich or poor, ‘northern’ or southern’ has exactly the same intrinsic worth”.”

“There is an intriguing debate about the niche religion occupies in human psychology and society.   Is religion’s primary purpose to ward off the chill of death?  Many believe this is the case  –  that religions arise and fall largely on how well they address the problem of mortality.  But perhaps death and the afterlife are largely male concerns.   After all, it is men who have done most of the killing in human history.   Might it be that religion’s primary purpose is to make sense not of death but of birth, not of destruction but of creation?  After all, the Jewish and Christian Bibles begin not with the deaths of Abraham or Jesus, but with the creation of the world.  Perhaps where religions really compete is on the question of how to flourish”.




Chair: Marjorie Spittle – Phone 481 1418 – Email: Marjorie
Newsletter Editor: Donald Feist – Phone 476-3268 – Email: Don

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