Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Christian ideology ignored - forum

A MEDIA preoccupation with sensationalist critics of religion drowns out the many intellectual voices who claim a significant place for Christian thinking in today's western civilisation, it was argued last night.

Delivering the annual CS Lewis lecture in Dublin, Dr Greg Clarke of Macquarie University in Sydney said there was immense scholarly interest in whether or not the Christian understanding of humanity, the world and God was basic to social good.

"This must be stressed, because the intellectual media does not pay sufficient attention to these voices and this direction of thinking. An anecdote from Dawkins is more quotable than the deeper reflections of an archbishop," he said.

Addressing the question of whether the West still needed its Christian roots, Dr Clarke cited a number of thinkers who challenged the arguments of the "new atheists" whose recent polemical books had reached such prominence. "These voices come from places of deeper learning concerning how societies are formed, what holds them together, and what is lost when key beliefs are removed."

He cited the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, whose secular writing sought to articulate a rational conception of a just and humane society. "Having spent many decades arguing that religion would have to be right on the edges of project of modernisation, recently Habermas has changed his position. He now argues that religious thinking is at the centre of the task."

Habermas acknowledged that the values held dear in a globalising world, such as human rights, liberty of conscience or social democracy, spring from Judeo-Christian thinking, he said.

"Even if a society wanted to 'outgrow Christianity', says Habermas, it would struggle to know where to go next."

He concluded with a call for a "mature kind of Irish thinker, who gives religion the time of day, who is at least as interested in what is in the Bible as what is on YouTube, who has taken the time to form a view on Christianity, given its significance to western life".
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(Source: IT)

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