Friday, October 09, 2009

Multifaith Centre

Yesterday, to Derby, to give a lecture on Freedom of Religion at the Multifaith Centre, which is part of the University but is managed by a separate Trust. The building is unusual and imaginative, and the Director, Dr Phil Henry, has evidently been successful in getting all the faith communities in the city involved. I do wonder, though, whether people who want to reach out to religions other than their own aren't the exception.

As a general rule, I think most people's attachment to their religion is based on familiar cultural signals that go back to their childhood, rather than an assessment of which set of beliefs seem intrinsically most probable. For the majority of people, who are not particularly religious the 'majestic and noble lines of Lucretius' quoted by Mr Gladstone in his great speech on the Affirmation Bill would strike a chord. In the Grand Old Man's translation,

Divinity exists in remote and inaccessible recesses; but with us it has no dealing, of us it has no need, with us it has no relation'..

That belief, he said, was the mischief of the age. But it wasn't the Lucretians who started the Armenian Genocide in 1915, or the Holocaust in the 40s. Throughout the centuries, fanatics who believed their own brand of religion must prevail over all others initiated wars and genocides, and it is Salafist fundamentalism which forms the ideological basis for international terrorism today.

I didn't get a chance to look around the city and see how it had changed since I was there as a graduate apprentice at Rolls-Soyce in 1951!

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