Friday, November 02, 2007

The Economist: 'God is not dead'

His Grace has been asked by The Economist to mention this week's edition to his Communicants, and he is more than pleased to do so. Of course, he does not accord with everything they write, but they very much take his theme when they observe that wheels invariably come full circle and that there is nothing new under the sun: ‘A religious fanatic feels persecuted, goes overseas to fight for his God and then returns home to attempt a bloody act of terrorism. Next week as Britons celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes, a Catholic jihadist, under the Houses of Parliament in 1605, they might reflect how dismally modern the Gunpowder Plot and Europe's wars of religion now seem’.

The magazine is replete with little nuggets of insight, like:

The White House might be going to hell (or at least to Hillary Clinton), but Europe faces a worse nightmare: a continued descent into Godlessness, and then a takeover by Islam.


The optimists point out that Europe's churches are roughly as full as America's were before the First Amendment separated church from state. Hence the importance of the current pope. One rumour is that Benedict XVI would prefer a smaller but more vibrant Catholic church in Europe. In Germany he is said to have argued privately against the churches' lavish state funding. If he took the same line publicly in Rome, that would certainly test the free-market hypothesis.


The idea of a firm division between God and Caesar is embedded not just in the gospels but also in Christian history: hence the Holy Roman Emperors' multiple disagreements with the pope. Islam has always left less room for the secular. Unlike Jesus, Muhammad was a ruler, warrior and lawmaker. Islam, which means “submission”, teaches that the primary unit of society is the umma, the brotherhood of believers, and it provides a system of laws—sharia—for people to live by. As Mark Lilla, an American academic, has argued, there has been no “great separation”: pious Muslims still turn to holy texts for guidance on all aspects of their lives.


One cause that could bring many pious people together is the environment. Religious people, argues Mr Cox, are questioning “an economic system based on the infinite expansion of finite resources”. The religious left has long been involved in greenery. The big change has come on the right. Conservative Protestants in America originally backed their political allies in the oil industry; now more of them are concerned about “creation care”. Biblical disaster seems to suit fundamentalists; hence their interest in greenish books such as Martin Rees's “Our Final Century”.

This is an issue well worth reading, distilling, as it does, the essence of the tensions between religion and (post)modernity, and summarising why politicians are doomed to addressing the inescapable fusion that exists between religion and politics.


Blogger Will said...

Your Grace has had some really moving posts in the last few weeks--thank you for the work you are doing.

If you have not seen this story yet, it may be a good example of the last paragraph in your post above. (Although I must admit I'd call this one "meddling" rather than "addressing the inescapable fusion that exists between religion and politics."

2 November 2007 at 13:11  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Will,

His Grace has indeed seen that story, and is pondering his reflections for (possibly) tomorrow. It is a manifest example of the fragmentation inherent to postmodernity.

2 November 2007 at 13:44  

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