Lately the political world seems relatively dormant, so the atheism/religion wars broke out here. Mostly it seems the atheism/Christian wars, perhaps because Christianity in all its forms is the dominant religion in the US, or because of the right wing fundamentalist Christian alliance with the Republican party. This diary addresses those issues only peripherely, if at all, but it does address tolerance and religion.
For those who don't know, Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work in opposition to apartheid in South Africa. He is an Anglican Bishop, a Christian. He also led the Truth and Reconciliation Committee after the abolition of apartheid. Witnesses who were identified as victims of gross human rights violations were invited to give statements about their experiences, and some were selected for public hearings. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution.
He wrote a book recently: 'God Is Not A Christian: And Other Provocations.'.
Here's Amazon's description of the book:
In this essential collection of Desmond Tutu’s most historic and controversial speeches and writings, we witness his unique career of provoking the powerful and confronting the world in order to protect the oppressed, the poor, and other victims of injustice.
Renowned first for his courageous opposition to apartheid in South Africa, he and his ministry soon took on international dimensions. Rooted in his faith and in the values embodied in the African spirit of ubuntu, Tutu’s uncompromising vision of a shared humanity has compelled him to speak out, even in the face of violent opposition and virulent criticism, against political injustice and oppression, religious fundamentalism, and the persecution of minorities.
Arranged by theme and introduced with insight and historical context by Tutu’s biographer, John Allen, this collection takes readers from the violent apartheid clashes in South Africa to the healing work of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee; from Trafalgar Square after the fall of the Berlin Wall to a national broadcast commemorating the legacy of Nelson Mandela; from Ireland’s Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin to a basketball stadium in Luanda, Angola. Whether exploring democracy in Africa, the genocide in Rwanda, black theology, the inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church, or the plight of Palestinians, Tutu’s message of truth is clear and his voice unflinching.
I want to bring two points from that excerpt:
My first point seems overwhelmingly simple: that the accidents of birth and geography determine to a very large extent to what faith we belong. The chances are very great that if you were born in Pakistan you are a Muslim, or a Hindu if you happened to be born in India, or a Shintoist if it is Japan, and a Christian if you were born in Italy. I don't know what significant fact can be drawn from this -- perhaps that we should not succumb too easily to the temptation to exclusiveness and dogmatic claims to a monopoly of the truth of our particular faith. You could so easily have been an adherent of the faith that you are now denigrating, but for the fact that you were born here rather than there.
We should in humility and joyfulness acknowledge that the supernatural and divine reality we all worship in some form or other transcends all our particular categories of thought and imagining, and that because the divine -- however named, however apprehended or conceived -- is infinite and we are forever finite, we shall never comprehend the divine completely. So we should seek to share all insights we can and be ready to learn, for instance, from the techniques of the spiritual life that are available in religions other than our own. It is interesting that most religions have a transcendent reference point, a mysterium tremendum, that comes to be known by deigning to reveal itself, himself, herself, to humanity; that the transcendent reality is compassionate and concerned; that human beings are creatures of this supreme, supra mundane reality in some way, with a high destiny that hopes for an everlasting life lived in close association with the divine, either as absorbed without distinction between creature and creator, between the divine and human, or in a wonderful intimacy which still retains the distinctions between these two orders of reality.
For me, Bishop Tutu represents some of the best thought and action from the Christian faith tradition. His beliefs and life do not mean Christianity is the only "true" religion or that there is a God. But he and his beliefs are deserving of respect.
In the shadow of class war fought between Democrats and Republicans, coalitions are essential. That requries respect of differences between people.
Individuals find a panopoly of beliefs and non-beliefs on the Big Questions in life.
If they are fighting for the people against exploitation by a privileged class, then they are allies, regardless of whether I choose their particular answers on other questions.