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Religion set to play a bigger role, says Chief Rabbi

Religion set to play a bigger role, says Chief Rabbi

The Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks of Aldgate, delivered the 2009 Theos Annual Lecture in Central London last night.

In the lecture, Lord Sacks called for a "tolerant religiosity" in society and respectful dialogue between religious faith groups and secular humanists.

The Chief Rabbi said "All peace depends on compromise and that is why peace comes to seem to some religious groups to be a form of betrayal, and that is why peacemakers get assassinated." In the Q&A, following the lecture, the Chief Rabbi said that Islam would embark on its own reformation.  

"I believe we have no choice but to articulate an intellectually open and humble religiousity as the only strong enough defence with some of the religiosity that is coming our way with the force of a hurricane" Lord Sacks said.

The Chief Rabbi argued that the future of religion in twenty-first century Britain lay in three directions: a new dialogue between religion and science, the unparalleled power of religious groups to confront the big global issues of the day, including climate change, and respectable conversations between religious groups and secular humanists. Speaking on the latter point, Lord Sacks said "Religious groups in the liberal democratic states must be able to get into serious respectable conversations with secular humanists, charities, other groups in civil society about the nature of the common good."

The Chief Rabbi added "At the moment, religious groups tend to act more as pressure groups, lobbyists than as conversation partners. But, that conversation is there to be had and I hope Theos plays a part in facilitating it."

Lord Sacks noted that "Albert Camus once said 'the only serious philosophical question is why should I not commit suicide.' I think he was wrong. The only serious philosophical question is why should I have a child? Our culture is not giving an easy answer to that question." He highlighted the fact that Europe is the only secular continent on the planet and is the only continent that is dying out.

The Theos Annual Lecture was given at Millbank Tower and was chaired by writer and broadcaster Libby Purves. The audience comprised senior politicians, journalists, academics, business people and faith group representatives. In his lecture, Lord Sacks paid tribute to the work of Theos . "I am an enormous fan of their work," he said. "Public theology is not particularly well known in Britain - it has a much bigger place in the US - but it is going to become more and more relevant in the years to come and I wish you every success."

The transcript of Lord Sacks lecture is here, and the podcast is here.

Elizabeth Oldfield

Elizabeth Oldfield

Elizabeth is Theos’ Director. She appears regularly in the media, including BBC One, Sky News, and the World Service, writing in The Financial Times and delivering Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Posted 11 August 2011

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