Belief is back: why the world is putting its faith in religion

Oct 8, 2018 by

By Neil Macgregor, Guardian.

[…] The whole of the Middle East is caught up in murderous conflicts that are articulated and fought out in religious as much as economic terms. In Indonesia and Nigeria, Myanmar and Egypt, communities are attacked and individuals killed on the pretext that the practice of their faith makes them aliens in their own country. India, whose constitution enshrines the state’s equidistance from all religions, is convulsed by calls for the government to assert an explicitly Hindu identity, with grave consequences for the hundreds of millions of Indians who are Muslims, Christians or belong to other faiths. In many countries, among them the US, immigration policy – which usually means the case against immigrants – is often debated in the language of religion.

Even in a largely agnostic Europe, the French street protest is part of a similar trend. The Bavarian first minister has recently urged the presence of the cross in official buildings as the marker of a Catholic Bavarian identity (even though the Catholic church opposed the idea). In 2009, a nationwide referendum in Switzerland decided to ban the building of minarets; while for the last few years thousands have been marching regularly in Dresden to protest against the alleged “Islamisation” of Europe. The most populous country on Earth, China, claims that its national interests, the very integrity of the state, are threatened by the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, the Dalai Lama, a man whose only power is the faith he embodies.

Belief is back. Around the world, religion is once again politically centre stage.

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