June 6, 2008

Tony Blair's Faith Foundation

Former English prime minister Tony Blair wants to make a difference in important issues such as global poverty and conflict. Excellent! There's just one problem. His proposed solution is a faith-based foundation, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. But why is this a problem if his goals are laudable?

Blair's goals for the new foundation are threefold:
  1. Tackle poverty and war,
  2. Improve awareness between world religions, and
  3. Promote faith.
I have no problem with the first goal. I can even live with the second because improved awareness and understanding of other religions appears to be a step in the right direction. Granted, I'd prefer increased awareness that it is time to move beyond religious superstitions. But goal #3? No thanks. What good does faith produce in our modern world?
Mr. Blair said there was "nothing more important" than creating understanding between different faiths and cultures.
Nothing? I certainly disagree with that. Also, since atheism is clearly not a faith (and does not require any faith whatsoever), I guess we atheists are again left out in the cold.

I'm all for the notion that we should increasingly view ourselves as global citizens, but I fail to see how religious faith can serve this goal. Each of the big monotheistic religions teaches believers that they alone are right and that everyone else is wrong. Each of the three devalues persons from other faith traditions or no faith tradition at all. In short, a great deal of divisiveness is built in.

If Blair is serious about countering religious extremism in each of the leading world religions, I can support that component of his plan. However, I am absolutely convinced that the only effective path to this important goal involves less faith rather than more.
But Mr Blair said while in office he feared being branded a "nutter" if he talked about his religious views.
If the term "nutter" means what I suspect it does, the label just might be deserved.

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