Wednesday, October 31, 2012
In the wake of the suicide boming of a Catholic church in northern Nigeria over the weekend, this piece in the Daily Telegraph by Rupert Shortt recounts the deeply troubling persecution of Christians in parts of the world and the neglect of the story in much of the West:
Why does all this matter? One obvious answer is that faith isn’t going to go away. Whatever one’s view of the coherence of religious belief, it has become clear that secularisation has gone into reverse, partly through the spread of democracy. Three quarters of humanity now profess a religious creed; this figure is predicted to reach 80 per cent by mid-century.
The prospect should not surprise us. Atheism feeds off bad religion, especially fundamentalism, whose easily disposable, dogmatic certainties now form one of atheism’s main assets. On the other hand, it is much harder for non-belief to replace the imaginative richness of a mature religious commitment, and the corresponding assurance that life is worth living responsibly, because it has ultimate meaning.
But faith is like fire, to cite an analogy used by the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. It warms; but it can also burn. Along or near the 10th parallel north of the equator, between Nigeria and Indonesia and the Philippines, religious fervour and political unrest are reinforcing each other. This point should be granted even if one accepts religion’s status as an immense – perhaps the preeminent – source of social capital in existence.