The Humanising Power of Faith

“Our situation at the beginning of the twenty-first century is like that of Europe at the beginning of the seventeenth. Then as now, the landscape was littered with the debris of religious conflict, the result of the Reformation and the end of an era in which Europe was dominated by a single overarching power. It is fair to say that religion did not distinguish itself at that time. It was then that honest, thoughtful men and women began to say to themselves: if people of faith cannot live together in peace, despite their differences, then for the sake of the future we must find another way. The secularisation of Europe, first in the sciences, then in the arts, then in politics and the structure of society, grew directly out of the failure of religion to meet the challenge of change. As one who deeply believes in the humanising power of faith, and the stark urgency of co-existence at a time when weapons of mass destruction are accessible to extremist groups, I do not think we can afford to fail again. Time and again in recent years we have been reminded that religion is not what the European Enlightenment thought it would become: mute, marginal and mild. It is fire – and like fire, it warms but it also burns. And we are the guardians of the flame.”

The Dignity of Difference, Prologue, p. 9