Thursday, December 22, 2011

reflections of a christian agnostic

Although am agnostic I enjoy celebrating Christmas not just for hedonism's sake (I like that bit too especially the eating part) but also as a 'religious' feast.
I think non Catholics can still feel at ease celebrating the birth of a historical figure who preached universal love and intellectual honesty, someone who spoke his truth to power gently but firmly.
Over the past years I came to the conclusion that Christian humanism can easily co-exist with the values of the enlightenment.
On the other hand I came to discover that rabid anti clericalism can easily co-exist with xenophobic, extreme right and the most irrational viewpoints.
So does religious fundamentalism and traditionalism which can turn the cross in to a banner of cultural exclusion.
Not surprisingly while I disagreed with Bishop Mario Grech on divorce, I admired his equally principled stance against the government's detention policy.
During the first part of the year I actively campaigned through my writing for the introduction of divorce, something which I consider to be a vital step in a clear separation of church and state.
In many ways the introduction of divorce was a blessing for the Catholic church as its rejection may well have triggered a resentment of a gross imposition.
In many ways divorce was introduced thanks to good Catholics who not only made a distinction between church and state but who felt solidarity towards people who were being denied a second chance. The same reasoning may one day lead to an acceptance of gay marriage and granting citizenship to the children of migrants.
In fact what both secular and Christian humanism share is a world view in which what counts for the goose counts for the gander, human dignity should be respected in all circumstances.
Obviously there are also issues like abortion or euthanasia where such convergence is more difficult but at least the emphasis on human dignity makes rational debate possible in a way which excludes both eugenics and zygote fetishists.
But there is much room for convergence on protecting the dignity of future generations from short term policies in both fiscal and environmental field, particularly when it comes to climate change policies.
Another thing which runs deep in both traditions since the time of Erasmus and Spinoza is a sense of introspective moderation and sobriety.
In today's world where the politics of anger characterize populist movements like the 'tea party' in the US and 'lega nord' in Italy, one should heed the distinction made by Vaclav Havel, between theater and politics.
"In a theater, our consciences are touched, but responsibility ends when the curtain falls. The theater of politics makes permanent demands on us all, as dramatists, actors and audience - on our common sense, our moderation, our responsibility, our good taste and our conscience".