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Britain needs a new 'spiritual humanism', says Cardinal

posted on 15 November 2005
Article in Parliament magazine calls for ‘true religion’ as a basis for coexistence

The Archbishop of Westminster has called for a new basis of coexistence in British society based on religious values.

In an article for the 14 November issue of the parliamentary weekly, The House, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor distinguishes between true and false religion in the wake of the 7 July attacks in London.

He says a new basis for belonging needs to be forged which starts from what true religion holds in common. “More religion of the true sort means human beings becoming closer to God, and therefore to each other”, he writes.

The Cardinal also says religious leaders “must have the courage to draw sharp dividing lines between true religion and the perverse mockery of it”, and adds: “We must find ways, in Britain and across the world, of demonstrating that when religion is linked to violence, violence is done to religion.”

The article is one of a number in the magazine by religious leaders focussing on “multicultural Britain”. Others include Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Sir Jonathan Sacks and the Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler.

ARTICLE FOLLOWS:

For a country of all faiths and none, spiritual humanism is the answer, says Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor

It has become fashionable to talk as if religion was the source of all that is amiss in our world, to see it as bringing nothing but violence and hatred and conflict. The idea sometimes seeps out that more religion means more division; such that, for example, more faith schools will erect more walls between communities.

These primitive views, culled from the ideologies of the eighteenth century, are, in a sense, the compliment which irreligion pays to religion. Love and hate live close together in the human heart. Where people’s deepest loyalties and deepest convictions are engaged, then there is always the danger of perversion. For evidence, there is no need to look beyond the bombers of July 7, who committed their terrible acts in the name of God and religion.

We are right to be scandalised at the idea of religion and violence being linked. When they are, people turn against religion. Some of them wrongly conclude that there is something innate to religion that links it to violence and fanaticism, and so prefer irreligion.

Twisted religion may be used to justify hatred and violence. But true religion points us towards healing and wholeness, towards whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious. More religion of the true sort means human beings becoming closer to God, and therefore to each other.

Any attempt to bring together Britain’s faith-based communities must start from this idea. The faith leaders, for their part, must have the courage to draw sharp dividing lines between true religion and the perverse mockery of it. We must find ways, in Britain and across the world, of demonstrating that when religion is linked to violence, violence is done to religion; that the name of God is peace; that we are human beings created in God’s image whether we are Christian or Muslim, Hindu or Jew.

This common witness is helping to build a spiritual humanism of peace. I call this “spiritual humanism” because society needs more than abstract ideals; it needs more than a set of commonly agreed principles. We need a humanism that embodies and promotes decency, dignity, respect for others on the basis of a transcendent truth: that we have one father in God; and that we are, therefore, his children, and so brothers and sisters.

In Britain, we have been working to that purpose: it has become routine, for example, for faith leaders to stand together to make common declarations. This year we have done so three times: when we urged the G8 leaders in Edinburgh to Make Poverty History; as we did the day after the July 7 attacks, to show that we stood for peace and dialogue; and as we did recently in a letter in the Times pledging ourselves to ever closer cooperation and understanding.

Britain needs a new spiritual humanism: a framework for belonging in which its citizens, whatever their origins or their beliefs, can live together in dignity and safety; where hatreds are defused by love; where the truth is spoken and heard; where the stranger, the widow and the orphan are received with open hand and heart; where our rulers seek wisdom; and our people, peace.
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posted on 15 November 2005

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