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The Modern City: Where Religions and Secularism Live Side by Side

Dissenting both from those who see secularization as an inexorable march in one direction and from those who see a resurgence of religion moving in the opposite direction, Peter Berger argues that one of the defining features of modernity is the ability of religion—in fact, many religions—to exist side by side with various forms of secularism. Take, for instance, a hospital:

Except for a small portion of the world’s population (especially in Western Europe and in the international intelligentsia), the relation between religion and modernity is not a matter of either/or but rather of both/and. . . .

Every hospital is a temple to the spirit of modernity: the therapy dispensed there is to be based exclusively on scientific knowledge, and the most advanced technology is applied in its service. However, the organization of a hospital resembles that of a religious hierarchy. All doctors wear long white robes, and the top doctors, surrounded by acolytes, occasionally descend from the heights and pronounce judgments. Lesser medical personnel, nurses, and technicians wear less sacred uniforms. The patients, upon whom this entire hierarchy is imposed, go around in demeaning clothing. . . . They must wait until sentence is pronounced from on high, they hope a merciful one. . . .

But . . . the hospital, flying the banners of modernity, is also ongoingly invaded by religion. Some of it is on the formal level. Large hospitals in Boston employ a multi-religious group of chaplains. Some are sent in by outside religious bodies, some are actually on the hospital’s own payroll. Both groups very commonly go through a program that began many years ago under the heading “clinical training,” intended to teach aspiring chaplains basic techniques of “counseling” (a kind of psychotherapy 101). . . . [And] chaplains prefer to describe their message as “spirituality,” rather than “religion.”

This allows them to fit more easily into the discourse of the medical hierarchy, including doing entries into patients’ charts—a “spirituality” index being potentially added to all the other data: blood pressure, sugar levels, X-ray pictures, and so on.

Read more at American Interest

More about: American Religion, Pluralism, Religion, Religion & Holidays, Secularism, Secularization

Mahmoud Abbas Comes to the UN to Walk away from the Negotiating Table

Feb. 22 2018

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, addressed the United Nations Security Council during one of its regular discussions of the “Palestine question.” He used the opportunity to elaborate on the Palestinians’ “5,000-year history” in the land of Israel, after which he moved on to demand—among other things—that the U.S. reverse its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The editors of the Weekly Standard comment:

It’s convenient for Abbas to suggest a condition to which he knows the United States won’t accede. It allows him to do what he does best—walk away from the table. Which is what he did on Tuesday, literally. After his speech, Abbas and his coterie of bureaucrats walked out of the council chamber, snubbing the next two speakers, the Israeli ambassador Danny Danon and the U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley, . . . [in order to have his] photograph taken with the Belgian foreign minister.

Abbas has neither the power nor the will to make peace. It’s the perennial problem afflicting Palestinian leadership. If he compromises on the alleged “right of return”—the chimerical idea that Palestinians can re-occupy the lands from which they [or their ancestors] fled, in effect obliterating the Israeli state—he will be deposed by political adversaries. Thus his contradictory strategy: to prolong his pageantry in international forums such as the UN, and to fashion himself a “moderate” even as he finances and incites terror. He seems to believe time is on his side. But it’s not. He’s eighty-two. While he continues his performative intransigence, he further immiserates the people he claims to represent.

In a sense, it was entirely appropriate that Abbas walked out. In that sullen act, he [exemplified] his own approach to peacemaking: when difficulties arise, vacate the premises and seek out photographers.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Mahmoud Abbas, Nikki Haley, Politics & Current Affairs, United Nations