The Reformation: a secular enchantment

If you ask most people with only a passing knowledge of Christianity to explain the differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, they’ll probably mention communion. Catholics believe the bread and wine literally turn into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, while for Protestants the ritual is merely symbolic. Something like that? Martin Luther would have been horrified.

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Love your enemies… but don’t let them eat you

Sam Harris on the science of good and evil, Intelligence Squared, London, 11 April 2011

American philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris, author of The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, is on a mission to break down the longstanding philosophical distinction between facts and values. Continue reading “Love your enemies… but don’t let them eat you”

The politics of secularism

Taming the Gods: religion and democracy on three continents, by Ian Buruma (Princeton University Press, 2010)

Ian Buruma’s short book is a kind of sequel to Death in Amsterdam, his book about the murder of Theo van Gogh and the limits of tolerance. It goes beneath the superficial counterpositions of today’s religion debates – religion versus secularism, multiculturalism versus intolerance – to identify some more interesting dynamics at work. Perhaps most usefully, Buruma shows that ideological disorientation within Western culture is at least as important as tensions between West and East, or even ‘secular liberalism’ and radical Islam. Continue reading “The politics of secularism”