Religion and power

Friday 26 August 2005 5:56 AM

Pamela Bone (Opinion, 25/8) raises again the question of a link between violence and oppression, and religious faith. She asks reasonable questions, from a historical perspective - questions which ought not to be lightly dismissed by thinking Christians, Muslims or adherents of other faiths. However her proposition: "the best societies in the world are secular societies" is a bold one. Two responses come readily to mind. First, secularism (with its philosophical foundation, humanism) is itself as much an ideology as any faith position, and commonly propounded with equal zeal. It rests on human effort and goodwill for the stability and improvement of human society. Hardly comforting, so far. 

Second, may I suggest an alternative interpretation of history's record. The "best" societies are founded on passionate, personal faith conviction among the general population, with political leaders allowing a faith perspective to judge their policy intentions, rather than harnessing faith to the cause of their own power and aspirations. For example, the impact of Christian revival through modern history is well documented, including significant reduction in crime and noticeable advancements in family life. It's not about religion. It's about power.