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31 January 2011

It’s time for a mannered debate on religion

P.S: This article is about Christianity however it can be applied to the religions in general and discrimination against Muslims in Christian world..


A story is told of a young businessman sharing a compartment on a train with an elderly gentleman. When he noticed that the old fellow was quietly and intently praying with his rosary, the young man chided him for his ‘superstition’ and told him that science had rendered the beliefs of religion irrelevant.

“How did you come to discover that?” the old gentleman asked.
His companion didn’t really know how to answer the question fully right then and there, so he offered to send him a few texts and public lecture notes on the subject for his enlightenment. “What’s your address?’ he asked “I’ll send you the material via the Post Office.” The old man rummaged in his coat pocket and produced a tattered business card that read, Louis Pasteur, Paris Institute of Scientific Research.
Louis Pasteur was the 19th century giant of microbiology who proved the germ-theory of disease and invented the rabies vaccine. His humility certainly didn’t hinder his greatness and his commitment to science did not preclude his belief in God.
Today believers throughout the Western world are facing similar challenges to any public expression of faith, often without the courtesy that the young businessman offered to his travel companion. One need only survey the comments that often accompany religious articles. 
Peter Smith, a Roman Catholic bishop in Britain summed up this attitude well: “Religion is regarded as a legally permissible private eccentricity;  allowable behind closed doors once a week, but not in any way to be given expression in public or working life.”
Lord Carey, former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury added: “What is happening in Western Europe is not persecution but a marginalizing of faith which seeks to portray it as a matter of personal conscience only.
Some examples of this originate from a mistaken but well-meant political correctness that is anxious not to upset minority faiths by seeming to ‘privilege’ Christianity.” Lord Carey also warned of an aggressive campaign by atheists to banish faith from the public sphere. Clearly the place of Christian faith [say Religion in general] within the 21st century is indeed under attack from those who demand that the values of secularism alone be used as the measure of what is permissible in public debates.
This trend has led to a situation in which Christians (at least in Europe) are now being actively discriminated against for their beliefs.
The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians is an NGO registered in Austria. The Observatory monitors and catalogues instances in which Christians and Christianity are marginalized or discriminated against throughout Europe. The Observatory focuses on Europe (European Union, EU accession countries, and wider Europe). In speaking to the issue of discrimination they write in the most recent report:
“Religious intolerance shows itself in ways that go beyond voicing disagreement. Attempts are underway to make the public expression or exercise of the non-tolerated religion impossible. When such intolerance is conducted by a state, it becomes discrimination with regard to the exercise of fundamental freedoms. When it is conducted by individuals or groups of society, it becomes a social phenomenon.”
In Barcelona, weekly mass at one university was cancelled because of the number of demonstrators greeting worshipers and disrupting services. The decision of the University to simply close the chapel rather than charge those disrupting the mass is also an example of institutional discrimination.
Just as the young businessman could not see the wisdom of Louis Pasteur those many years ago, so too are the radical voices of secularism ignorant of the insult and discrimination they offer to believers today. We are most definitely returning to the days of persecution and oppression. But Christians have faced such a situation before. We will succeed in surviving the current wave of opposition and hostility, albeit not without considerable effort and difficulties in the years ahead.
Fr. Tim Moyle, a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pembroke is a frequent contributor to the Holy Post. He maintains a personal blog at  Where the Rubber Hits the Road