Framing communities through faith
The Economist Debate which has just finished raises some difficult questions.
The topic under vigorous discussion was This house believes that religion is a force for good. It has consistently been the case however that readers of The Economist hold no such view; throughout the exchange around three quarters of them rejected the proposition in hand.
Some striking findings would seem to support The Economist readers’ position. The Debate Moderator, Roger McShane, reported in his introductory remarks that in 2007 The Pew Research Centre ….found that majorities in a number of countries, including America, felt that belief in God was a necessary precursor to being a “moral” person with “good values”. But in the same survey Pew found that similar majorities felt homosexuals should be rejected by society, intolerance apparently passing for a good value in many moral households.
Religion as identity and influence?
So where does this leave us? In a world where more Americans than a year ago – especially his growing number of opponents – now believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim (he is in fact Christian), how does ‘religion’ play in modern-day thinking about the future?
Are religious labels still used by significant numbers as a way of indicating approval or dislike of people and communities?
Can ‘religion’ have a positive influence, independently of the good intent (or otherwise) of individuals, whether of faith or not?
* Are readers of The Economist correct in maintaining that religion is negative in its overall effect?
* And is faith best left as a private, personal matter not recognised as significant by the state?
* Do official / formal organisations sometimes use ‘faith communities’ as short-hand for groups of people who might more constructively be identified in other ways?