Faith and Violence

From the SoFiA Bulletin (Upwey, Vic.)*, October 2011: 6 & 7. *ed. & co-ordinator, Scott McKenzie,

Melbourne atheist and columnist for The Age, Dick Gross, has a useful take on the question of whether faith leads to violence. In his view there are three “malign” factors, any of which can contribute to a tendency to violence.

The first is extreme evangelicalism. The risk here is that the end (i.e. expanding the faith) may be seen in the eyes of the faithful as so imperative and desirable as to justify extreme means.

Factor two is the circumstance in which a faith coincides with “unfortunate socio-political factors” such as ethnic tension, nationalism, war and poverty. I would call this the tribalism factor, and it’s clear to see everywhere from Northern Ireland to Afghanistan.

The third malign factor is a lack of checks and balances and opportunities for debate. This is evident, for instance, in theocracies like Iran.

Parish keeps faith in fight for Father Bob

SOUTH Melbourne is again fighting to keep its beloved priest, Father Bob Maguire, after the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne secretly signed a contract with the Capuchin religious order to run the parish from February.

The charismatic Father Maguire, 2011 Victorian of the Year and a noted media personality, yesterday blamed Sydney's Cardinal George Pell, saying his removal was part of the cardinal's battle to enforce his own highly conservative view of Catholicism.

Abuse victims take protest to the grave

FOUR people carrying a coffin is an incongruous sight in a leafy suburban street, but that coffin - bought for $500 yesterday morning - will be inscribed with the name of every state ward who has suffered abuse and died without compensation.

It was the main prop for the score of victims holding a vigil outside the Christian Brothers' Treacy Centre in Parkville who complain that the state, churches and charities are ''as bad as each other'' in abandoning responsibility for lives shattered by abuse as state wards.

If religious zeal inhibits art we are all poorer

Ganesh is this show's hero, but its creators are being painted as villains.

The mark of a good arts festival is its willingness to create controversy. Not that festival directors deliberately set out to antagonise or offend audiences. Indeed, as one Melbourne Festival director once said to me, you can never predict which events might trigger moral outrage.

Some Melbourne Festival shows, of course, seem irredeemably destined for controversy, such as 2003's Belgian production I Am Blood/Je Suis Sang, which featured nudity and copious quantities of fake blood.

Teaching children the real truth about science

''NOT all scientists are good scientists,'' Nobel laureate Harold Kroto says when asked what he thinks about the debate around global warming.

''We don't have a 100 per cent reliable assessment so we can only say - and I would say - that it doesn't look good.''

Professor Kroto ticks off the warning signs on his fingers, listing rising sea levels and temperatures, the shrinking Arctic and melting glaciers.

Hindus want to ban play that has Ganesh reclaim swastika from Germany

A MELBOURNE Festival play involving Hindu deity Lord Ganesh will inflame tensions between India and Australia if it is not withdrawn, according to Council of Indian Australians president Yadu Singh.

Indians saw the play, Ganesh Versus the Third Reich, as part of a campaign of denigration against them by Australians, Dr Singh said yesterday.

It has already hit the headlines in the Times of India.

Inviting Muslims to be heard

Many groups have a right to speak on Islamic issues. Even radical voices should be included in the conversation.

Church to probe Access

THE Uniting Church, one of the key partners in Access Ministries that provides religious education in Victorian primary schools, has backed away from supporting the beleaguered agency.

The church's state synod (parliament) declined to vote on a proposal that the church continue to support the work of Access, instead forming a task group to explore the relationship between it and the synod, and how best to teach Christian education.

It was the liveliest and longest discussion of the five-day meeting at La Trobe University, which ends today.

'Four horsemen' draw godless crew

TICKETS are selling fast to what organisers say will be the most significant atheist gathering in history next April, when the ''four horsemen of the apocalypse'' share a stage for the first time.

The four horsemen are the world's most famous atheists - scientist Richard Dawkins, philosophers Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris and journalist Christopher Hitchens - who will speak at the second Global Atheist Convention at the Melbourne Convention Centre.

School chaplains' forum highlights tension

THE head of Access Ministries, Stephen Hale, has sought to assuage community concerns about religious instructions in schools through a forum in outer-eastern Melbourne.

The forum, held in Nunawading yesterday, highlighted the tension between some parents who say they are concerned about their children being indoctrinated by Access Ministries instructors during weekly religious classes and the organisation, which has repeatedly denied claims it is proselytising.

Parents are also concerned about the way children who opt out of religion classes spend that time.

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