Thursday, May 26, 2005

Two Views of the Georgia Straight's Article on the Centre/SFU Conference
"Citizenship and the Common Good: Secularism or the Inclusive Society?"
Vancouver, BC, May 19 & 20, 2005.

Casting faith and science against each other is futile
By Steve Bailey
Publish Date: 26-May-2005
As appeared in the Georgia Straight

Congratulations to Shannon Rupp and the Straight for taking a serious look at some important issues regarding culture, science, and faith. I attended the conference at SFU Harbourside and would like to share a couple of observations.

First, it is wrong to present the Centre for Cultural Renewal as an organization longing for some past time of religious hegemony in Canadian culture. The centre’s business is to find new and effective relationships among people of faith (including those who would profess no faith—a religious commitment in itself) to create a culture aware of the positive values that could and should inform its citizens’ actions.

Second, raising the old spectre of “evolution versus creation” and “intelligent design” is rather wearisome. Casting faith and science against each other is futile and does justice to neither.

Which brings up Dan Siney’s work. The student group at Handsworth that protested the “Ascent of Man” mural probably missed the central point. That mural itself is a “religious” icon, a statement of faith. It is just as much a religious depiction as the attention-getting cover picture that cleverly combines William Blake and the “Ascent of Man”. Let’s see these things for what they are: depictions of a world-view. As such, the humanities/arts wing of a school would be a more appropriate place for such a representation.

I would also take issue with Siney’s view that “it would be impossible to study religions in public schools.” Patently false—and an extremely limiting position. I taught a senior secondary course in comparative religions for many years. It was an opportunity to bring groups of students together to practise civil dialogue that aimed at greater understanding and more informed thinking.

I wish Iain Benson and the Centre for Cultural Renewal well, and I congratulate Don Grayston and the SFU Centre for the Humanities for hosting a positive and worthwhile event that reflected intellectual and spiritual integrity from beginning to end.

Steve Bailey/Coquitlam

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God article leads to debate over science, religion
By Daniel Adleman
Publish Date: 26-May-2005
As appeared in the Georgia Straight

We have to take the collapse of church and state that’s transpired south of the border as a cautionary tale [“The return of God”, May 19-26]. The religious lobby is large and powerful, and they are scheming day and night about how to impose their fairy tales and sectarian prejudices on the rest of us.

Though their ideology is archaic, their tactics are anything but. They are clever, resourceful, and quick to paint themselves as victims in order to dominate the public discourse on issues important to their world-view (a tactic that tends to work particularly well in Canada).

But once they gain a significant foothold, there’s no stopping them, and it’s goodbye secular democracy and hello state-sanctioned creationism in public schools, bigotry, abortion and stem-cell-research bans, and even active participation in America’s religious/resource wars. Everyone who cares about democracy and progress should rally to oppose this threat to secularism. It is the very nature of secular democracy that the state should never seek to force these zealots to change their ridiculous beliefs; their beliefs are protected by law. But the fire-and-brimstone crowd doesn’t play by the same rules; their missionary mandate is the exact opposite, and it would be a fatal error to sacrifice democracy and truth in order to pander to these self-proclaimed victims. Compassion for the oppressed is a markedly Canadian value. But it’s not merited here. Now is the time to slam down that window of opportunity square on their fingers.Because if they can get in, they intend to take over.

Daniel Adleman / Vancouver

CENTREBLOG: Volume 81