June 09, 2010

AWRF 2010 - Religion: What is it good for?


I asked Ashley, who works at Central Library in the circulation team, to lift the veil for us on ‘Religion: what is it good for?’ His discerning comments arrived today accompanied by a cryptic remark about earlyness. But the last shall be the first, and never more so than in a blog.

Sean Plunket introduced the Writers and Readers Festival panel on 'Religion: what is it good for?' by mentioning Richard Dawkins. Dawkins' hugely popular satellite address to last year's festival  could hardly go without mention, for it is Dawkins and his The God delusionwe have to thank for making atheism and the debate on the merits of religion such a large part of our discourse. The God delusion pushed a lot of buttons, and the amount of response he has received, in writing, from those who disagree is mountainous.

This year the festival brought together three writers, self-professed atheists, to play Dawkins for a day. By way of introduction Adrian Wooldridge said "I was born into the Church of England, which is another way of saying I'm atheist." I enjoyed the irony in the fact that Wooldridge, the most Dawkins-like in sound and appearance, is co-author of God is back: how the global revival of faith is changing the world. He was joined by "cultural Jews" Antony Loewenstein, author ofMy Israel question, and Michael Otterman, author of Erasing Iraq : the human costs of carnage. Said Otterman of his faith, "I love Seinfeld and bagels on Sunday."

The panel attempted to ask the question of what, if anything, religion is actually good for, and if the answer is nothing, can it be helped along. Unsurprisingly, only Wooldridge answered in religion's favour, speaking of how religion can bond communities and provide social services. Both Loewenstein and Otterman spoke of the atrocities committed in religion's name, and of how being part of a community will not protect you if it is smaller than a group that dislikes you.

The talk ended on the topic of separating Church and State, having gone down the path of the role the media plays in discussing religion, specifically with regard to Israel. The topic of the discussion did not strictly allow for any of the authors to say much about their books, though all of course did so as much as possible. It was a bold attempt by the Festival to carry on from Dawkins last year, though I think I would have much preferred each author speaking on their own work in more depth. I guess that should teach me to try three for the price of one.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 02:30
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