Faith and the Challenges of Secularism: A Jewish-Christian-Muslim Trialogue

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Event Name: Faith and the Challenges of Secularism: A Jewish-Christian-Muslim Trialogue
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 7/18/2019 8:43:19 PM
Transcript Version: 2

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things but I think that's one thing

we're seeing a lot of people abandoning

faith in in the Muslim world now so

atheism is really on the rise in places

like Syria Iran Iran and and again a lot

to blame to this these so-called Muslim

leadership right but I think those are

some of the really important thing Thank

You rabbi sacks and I will the third

century rabbi Ben Zoma said who is wise

one who longs everyone and that to me is

at the very heart of this so from

Christianity I learned what it is to

create the most successful

transformational movement in history you

will not find any movement here on all

of history there were 2.4 billion

Christians today in the world at 1.6

billion Muslims and a few of us mainly

in New York and kosher deli

you know Christianity took faith and

gave it to the world and Christianity

teaches me what it is to really care for

the poor I see that as absolutely at the

heart of Christian social teachings

which is so powerful from Islam I learn

what it is to be the most successful of

all faiths in sustaining faith even in

the midst of a highly circular world

Muslims have a commitment of faith that

I find it

donation from Hindus in India Island

graciousness and tolerance from Sikhs I

learned the importance of langa what

they call longer which is hospitality

how hospitality bring people together

from what is I learn the most unjú ish

thing in the entire universe which is

calm you know we do grow psychosis

accidential angst when all the weather

is in that but there's something so so

in all of these things is in incredible

beauty and if you are confident in your

own faith you are never threatened by

the existence of other things but there

is one thing I think that might emerge

from all of this secure ization actually

began in Europe in the 17th century and

it began after pretty much a century of

religious wars following the Reformation

first in France then the 30 Years War in

Central Europe which may have cost as

many as a 1/3 of the population of

Central Europe brought to an end only

with the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648

which is the foundation of our current

world order and the heroes are secular

of the new secular world were not people

who liked faith in God Newton and


Newton spent more than half his time

writing commentaries to the Bible

Descartes brings God in that stage too

as soon as he's got to cogito ergo sum

to be able to move from there he has to

invert God Sakurai's ation did not begin

when people lost faith in God it began

when people lost faith in the ability of

people of faith to live peaceably with

one another and that is why these Wars

of Religion which are really spreading

and contagiously around the world are so


but I trillion truly believe that the

only full response as an alternative to

Drai's Benedict option is for Jews

Christians Muslims and others to stand

together and clearly commit together

number one to an overarching civil faith

but we each matter that we have

collective responsibility for the common

good that we need to make space for one

another because no religion is fully

intelligible to an outsider and as for

which one of us is right I leave that to

the Almighty it's a lot better than we

are so if we could actually do that Jew

Christian and Muslim stand together as

we really did actually in Britain and

and it really lowered the level of

religious tensions in Britain because I

worked very carefully with Muslim

leaders and of course with the

Archbishop's of Canterbury and Cardinal

Archbishop's of Westminster and the rest

and we were the leaders of all the

faiths in Britain were good close

personal friends and whenever there was

a terrorist attack we would stand

together and that really calmed things

and it really did good I mean it didn't

stop but it did stuff is fighting one

another Jonathan could you share with

our audience what you shared with the

audience in Princeton recently when we

had our public discussion about the ways

in which the centuries represented

different moments of secularization

beginning with the one that you talked

about a moment ago and as far as I can

see secularization happened in four

stages each one with its own century so

the 17th century was the section of

knowledge with Newtonian science and

Cartesian philosophy knowledge without


assumptions which was reason an

observation philosophy in science in the

18th century came the Sakurai's ation of

power with the American Revolution in

the First Amendment and the French

Revolution the formal or substantive

separation of church and state the 19th

century was the secularization of

culture when the museum and the concert

hall and the art gallery took the place

of houses of worship as places where you

encountered the sublime and the

beautiful and the 20th century saw the

final Sakurai's ation which was the

sakura's ation of morality in the 1960s

throughout the West the two foundations

of the judeo-christian ethic namely the

sanctity of life and the idea that there

is such a thing as a sexual ethic

involving fidelity and the Covenant or

nature of marriage those two just

disappeared throughout the West so we've

gone through four stages of

secularization and there are no more

stages to go through short of complete

atomization of society because I pointed

out the four great institutions of

modernity science technology the market

and the state cannot answer the three

questions that every reflective

individual will ask some time in life

Who am I why am I here how then shall I

live the science tells us how but not

why technology gives us power but

doesn't tell us how to use that power

the market gives us choices but doesn't

tell us which choices to make and the

Liberal Democratic State gives us a

maximum of freedom but no guidance as to

how to use that freedom therefore

religion will return but in the meantime

we've got a gap to fill

yeah I just want to say about I think

there's a good antidote for this idea

that somehow the secular state this this

is what William Cavanaugh wrote a book

called the myth of religious violence

and I think he makes a very strong


despite his nominalism he makes a very

strong argument that these wars had

really very little to do with religion

and and religion is always impressed

into war

what's happening in the Middle East I

mean to illustrate that you know the

Iraqi that says you know are you a Sunni

or Shia and he said no I'm an atheist he

said well what are you us in the 8th

universe I mean this this is what you

know I think that illustrates very well

the reality of a lot of these conflicts

Ireland is much more about British

control and rule of Ireland than it was

ever about Protestant Catholics you know

the religion became enlisted in that and

so I think it's really important for us

to recognize that the religion is is

very often the first victim or first

casualty of war

you know Jonathan's mentioning that that

calm is a sort of on Jewish thing

reminded me of my dear old friend Mitch

dektor used to describe a Jewish

telegram this is a telegram that simply

said worry details to follow

well you've heard as Robbie promised

from three great masters and now you'll

have a chance to engage these

extraordinary individuals so I think

there are microphones so in each aisle

so how will we handle this yeah yeah

please just step forward to the

microphone hello my name is Nathan

Weininger with the 21st century

Wilberforce initiative my question is

related to confronting issues of secular

in other places my organization works on

International Religious Freedom and

oftentimes persecuted people's and other

places are encouraging secularization

obviously those are different things but

we're using the same words how do we

communicate with them and work together

for this thing that's a wonderful point

many people advocate for religious

freedom in India would want to

strengthen the Indian secular state

thank you for that well speaking now as

a Catholic although I think this

principle is is one that could be

embraced by all faiths there's a

distinction between secularism as an

ideology that competes with the great

traditions of faith and other secular


there's dissenting secularism and a

legitimate realm of the secular that is

an area in which we conduct our business

together without anything turning on

specific sectarian sorts of of

assumptions we might look at the

difference between the American and

French Revolutions these are very very

different revolutions

there is nothing remotely approaching

the hostility to faith of the French

Revolution in the American Revolution

quite the contrary

John Adams one of the great leaders of

the American Revolution commenting on

our Constitution said that our

Constitution is a constitution for a

moral and religious people and will not

serve any other type of people so he

recognized the legitimate domain of

faith which was not to be privatized and

stigmatized and marginalized it had its

legitimate role including in the domain

of public discussion and public affairs

at the same time he held for as did all

the American founders leading American

founders no state religion no official

state religion that there's a legitimate

secularity at that level so that people

of all faiths can participate fully as

citizens in this new in this new

republic perhaps even more important

than our First Amendment protection of

the free exercise of religion perhaps is

which which is founded on an amendment

to the Constitution and the First

Amendment to the Constitution perhaps

even more important

is a principle that's entrenched in the

body of the Constitution didn't require

an amendment and that is the no

religious tests for Office principle

that meant that all Americans could hold

all offices quite irrespective of their

particular religious affiliations and

beliefs that's the legitimate realm of

the secular that we mustn't throw out as

throwing out a baby with with the with

the bathwater to be against secularism

as a militant and mission izing ideology

that seems seeks to drive the traditions

of faith to the margins and and off the

edge you should too beginning of virtue

if if you look at the world ruler with

the great Abrahamic monotheism

there are theological differences but

actually if you look at the wisdom

literature of all faiths there's an

enormous convergence and that Taoism

Confucianism and at certain aspects of

Buddhism are part of that wisdom

tradition if Lewis called the DAO of the

Darwin morality

and that you'll find everywhere and that

is what makes those texts still speak to

all of us and that they're very precious

picking up on professor Jorge's point

about us becoming a society of choosers

in a culture where will dominates

everything and in effect we are

individual gods deigning for ourselves

what is true and what is good and what

is beautiful and nobody's determination

is any better or worse than anybody

else's so who you to tell me how to

behave or what to think

in that kind of culture how does one

even start the dialogue about absolutes

well first thing to notice is that

secularism as it presents itself today

in the West is not a relativist doctrine

it's not it's got its own absolutes and

it's very absolutist about its absolutes

and and and you know it it has rules

that it wants everybody to obey even if

those rules contradict the rules of the

faith which what is what creates the

great religious liberty issues of our

day to me the fundamental problem isn't

relativism as such among secularists or

with ideological secularism that I won't

be able to go into much detail here if

you if you want to fish around in my

readings you'll see my writings you'll

see where I've flesh this out of it I

think that it's anthropology it's the

difference between the secularists and

the religious understanding of the human

person secularist ideology is

essentially accepted Hobbs's conception

of the human being as a machine for

having experiences religion the great

Abrahamic faiths the great face of the

East could never accept such a notion

and the the the upshot of that

practically is that we now live in an

age of feeling an age where the reality

of human goods that we can participate

in and whose integral directive 'no sui

can guide ourselves by the the reality

has been replaced by a desire for the

experiences the experiential component


but but experience and reality are not

the same thing what matters is the

underlying reality now ordinarily when

you do good things for good reasons and

respect the moral imperative such as do

unto others as you'd have them do unto

you it also results in pleasant

experiences that's part of the

perfection of the thing you feel good

about yourself but it's not the feeling

good that ultimately matters it's the

doing good because human beings are not

just machines for having experiences my

name is leaders Sheikh Yusuf you

mentioned that the benedictine options

argument that is that sex and technology

are the greatest threats to religious

community dr. George you mentioned that

the respectful disagreement mentioned a

respectful disagreement to the option

how we shouldn't answer these intrusions

of destructive uses of sex and

technology about isolating ourselves and

Rabbi sex you gave a hopeful comment

that technology can have great positive

spiritual power

would you please comment on how our

traditions ought to approach modern

technology in the light of secularism

challenges thank you I want to hear

Lourdes Saxon Che comes on this I'll

just say for my part very quickly I

think that the traditions of faith and

people have faith have essentially three

options want us to capitulate one is to

separate ourselves in the hope that

we'll be left alone to bring up our own

families and nurture our own traditions

and third engagement that is active

engagement I think it has to be the

third what I think fundamentally rod

very fundamentally thinks the second for

now and it's complicated and and rods

views should not be over oversimplified

I wish we had more time to go to go into

it I do not think as my circumcision

example makes clear and it's one little

example from hundreds I could cite to

you it makes clear that militant

evangelizing mission izing secularism

has no intention of leaving Jews and

Muslims and Christians alone to retreat

to the monasteries to get through the

dark ages raise our own families pass on

our own traditions they want your kids

in fairness to Rajveer one point that he

does make is that even as we build our

enclaves the one way we have to engage

the wider culture is to defend our

religious liberty that was one of the

dominant themes of the remarks of all

these wonderful thinkers that that is

one thing we even those of us who may

want to create enclaves we have to have

religious liberty to be able to sustain

our own structures and communities we

just to say about the sex and Technology

now the to have have become hybrid and

so a lot of our young people especially

young boys at the age of the first

exposure now is about nine years old on

to pornography to pornography and dr.

George and I were involved in an

initiative trying to fight this and

people think religious people always

obsessed with sex and pornography and

things like this and but the reality of

it is is that the ancient world had a

lot of mystery religions that were based

on a Dionysian type of sexuality the sex

is very powerful and it can become as

was pointed out in her essay on the

seven deadly sins Dorothy Sayers pointed

out that very often sex becomes a

substitute for a culture when they lose

religion and and in our tradition imam

al-ghazali and this is also probably

from Gregory but Aquinas brings up the

daughters of lust and a mortal sin is a

habitual sin it's something that you do

habitually a lot of people are addicted

to pornography but which is a habitual

sin of lust and being in a state of lust

the the daughters of lust

they're called Bennett o shahe ye in the

Arabic tradition the daughters of lusts

one of them it is is as spiritual

blindness another is distracted

distracted 'no cecilia distractibility

but one of them is is hatred towards the

things sacred and and despairing of God

or animosity towards God and so I think

people don't realize the connection that

we're seeing in our culture that's

directly related to a completely

sexualized civilization if you want to

read a really I think an important

pamela paul that exposed me to a lot of

this she wrote a book called pornified

this is a secular liberal woman who

found out about this world and wrote a

book about how devastating and i don't

think a lot of people realize what's

online and what people exposed to chris

hedges his second chapter in one of his

books goes into graphic detail about

what what young kids are exposed to

today that i think you will have the

last word mmm-hmm

first of all if you want to see what

could be done through this technology go

and look at our website we're working on

this one earlier and we're experimenting

with new forms whiteboard animation

short videos with music and imagery to

create moments of spirituality of myths

and so on and in terms of sexuality

there was a book a couple of years ago

in the states by somebody who became an

orthodox jewish woman just because she

wanted to recover the integrity of a

physical relationship Wendy Shelley

Wendy shallots book modesty and it's a

really good book the three positive

possibilities of this technology are

number one Sergey Brin and Larry Page

his commitment to the democratization of

access to knowledge that is so powerful

the countries that never really had

access to good education and kids who

never had it now have access to it

number two

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has just

changed the mission statement of

Facebook from connecting friends to

creating communities and it was very

interesting the Mark Zuckerberg and

what's her name Sheryl Sandberg both on

our holy day Yom Kippur sent out

religious messages as committed Jews and

I had never seen that actually in public

before so they too are beginning to

realize that they must be responsible

for making sure that things like

Facebook help preserve our basic human

and spiritual

values and I think the third thing is is

simply that you know we are connected

together in a way that no human beings

ever have then Facebook is just about

habits boom its first 30 years it now

reaches 2 billion people just think of

this 2 billion people have the chance to

be rude to one another but I mean very

quick what if we seized that and said we

are going to counter the bad that's out

there and there's a lot that's bad by

showing that the good is really

beautiful life enhancing and inspiring

we can use this technology for the sake

of God and if we don't God will not

forgive us because he gave us this

technology so that it would serve us to

serve Him thank you one more brief last

word from from Robbie Jordan and that

list Lord is simply thank you thanks to

all of you for coming out and being part

of launching our new initiative I also

want to say a big thank you to Dean

Hibbs and to Byron Johnson and the

entire Baylor community cannot tell you

how honored I am to be associated with

this initiative and then finally thanks

to my two beloved friends the busiest

men in the world who made a special

effort to be here to help us launch this

this community and I love you guys and

thank you so so very very much