The deeper truth masked by all the ranting — and, it should be added, by the blinkers of many Western secularists — is that Christians are targeted in greater numbers than any other faith group on earth. About 200 million church members (10 per cent of the global total) face discrimination or persecution: it just isn’t fashionable to say so.
. . . One reason why Western audiences hear so little about faith-based victimisation in the Muslim world is straightforward: young Christians in Europe and America do not become “radicalised”, and persecuted Christians tend not to respond with terrorist violence. This forbearance should of course be a source of pride in many respects, and would be an unqualified good if properly acknowledged. But it counts for much less in a climate where most of what is considered newsworthy has to involve tub-thumping or outright violence.
The problems faced by Christians are not by any means restricted to the Muslim world. Take India, where minorities — Muslims included — are menaced by Hindu extremists who consider the monotheistic traditions to be unwelcome imports, and resent Christian opposition to the caste system.
. . . Elsewhere, the culprits include not only Communists, but also Buddhist nationalists in countries such as Burma and Sri Lanka. The scale of Communist intolerance is a matter of record. Curbs on freedom of worship in countries including China, Vietnam and Cuba are draconian and sometimes exceptionally sadistic.
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.
. . . On the positive side, faith-based conviction has mobilised millions to oppose authoritarian regimes, inaugurate democratic transitions, support human rights and relieve human suffering. In the 20th century, religious movements helped end colonial rule and usher in democracy in Latin America, Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
The challenge, then, at once simple and substantial, is to promote the peaceful messages at the heart of the world’s major faiths, while neutralising perversions of the core teachings.
- Pic of the day: 'John's Weather Forecasting Stone'
- Update on the latest scientific findings about the Shroud of Turin: image "is impossible to obtain in a laboratory"
- Disillusioned: Robert Fitzpatrick, who spent his $140,000 life savings on advertising the 'May 21 Rapture'
- Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou is "more like an undergraduate . . . than a serious academic"
- Doubting Thomas -- an introduction to the poetry of R. S. Thomas
- [Stained glass] Pic of the day: St. Austremonius amongst the beasts of the wild
- Derren Brown exposes the fake fundamentalist faith healers
- American fundamentalist schools are using the Loch Ness monster to disprove evolution
- Tom Sutcliffe on Dr. Francesca Stavrakopoulou, physical beauty and 'The Bible's Buried Secrets'
- Pic of the day: The Song of Solomon for biblical literalists
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- Oh dear, yet another disappointing reversal for Richard Dawkins — can he get anything right?
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- ‘A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.’ ~ C. S. Lewis