Thursday, November 01, 2007

Religion is Back! Of Course, It was Never Gone

Surprisingly good piece in the Economist, bringing together several of my own concerns: recognition that religion, as quintessentially human as anything else we do, is not going to go away ever; recognition that religion is a matter of conscience, and that the very idea that religion is a matter of conscience is a hard-won modern idea; that the best way to achieve peace in religionized conflicts is to involve religious leaders rather than to try to make them stop being religious. And so on. And of course a recognition that many "religious" conflicts are not at bottom, or certainly not entirely, "religious."

Many of those struggles, notably the Middle East, began as secular tribal disputes. Now that they have a religious component they are much harder to solve: if God granted you the West Bank, you are less likely to trade it. “Inter-faith dialogue” may sound a wishy-washy concept; but it is a more realistic idea than presenting a secular peace to competing faiths without the backing of religious leaders. Priests and pastors condemned violence from both sides in Northern Ireland; that has not really happened in the Holy Land.

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