“I say to people in Québec: your kids are going to change you more than all these immigrants. I’m a grandfather now and I see what has happened over these two generations and it’s huge. We dropped the central religious identity of Québec in this time, nobody forced us from outside.”
One thing many of us appear to believe today is that a quick Google search will answer any question. As I discovered when trying to find out what we believe today, you don’t even need to do the search. Just type in the first few words and see how the algorithms complete it for you. So it was that the phrase “believe in” was completed by – as I suspected – “yourself”.
A curious modern ritual of the festive season is to lament the excess and commercialisation of Christmas while simultaneously partaking in it. Perhaps it is not only at family gatherings that Christmas has a tendency to bring to a head simmering tensions. It also seems to be a time when the dissonance between our simultaneous loving and loathing of capitalism becomes almost unbearable.
In many ways medieval Islamic philosophy and the works of Friedrich Neitzsche couldn’t be more different. But as we see in this podcast, both provide interesting, rich challenges to modern western egalitarian ideals. Guests are Carlos Fraenkel (McGill University) and Mathias Risse (Harvard Kennedy School of Government). Produced in association with the Berggruen Institute’s Philosophy and Culture Centre.
What we all need is not best described as faith. It is simply more than can be proven by logic and science. We need to believe in things that are not entirely justified by reason, but that does not require us to embrace creeds that reason tells against.
The main weakness of the book is that its impressive erudition is not sufficiently ordered, filtered and edited to make it serve the central argument. In his enthusiasm to gather and share his evidence, Grayling has neglected to turn it into a convincing case.
I don’t think there can or should be a going back to the days when spiritual shepherds spoke and human flocks followed. But something needs to do the work today that those five commandments did for centuries. That something needs to transcend our own narrow self-interests and those of our kith and kin. The only credible candidate for that is our common humanity.
We have no reason to fear being dead since, as Epicurus so pithily put it, “When we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not.” But for me he misses the point. It’s not fear of death that makes me reluctant to receive it, it’s love of being alive.
NEWSHOUR – BBC WORLD SERVICE, 20 JUNE. I took part in a reasonably long discussion about forgiveness on this programme. Listen again or download podcast here.
The central purpose of religion has historically been a change of heart, not a change in the world. Modern politics has things entirely the other way around: the state’s job is to change society and it oversteps its mark if it tries to alter the minds of the people.