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Pablo Picasso and the art of living

Pablo Picasso – Les Demoiselles d’Avignon via Flickr

Pablo (Ruiz y) Picasso (1881-1973) was a Spanish artist, born at Málaga.

In 1901 Picasso painted in Montmartre, Paris, during his so-called blue period (1901-4). This produced a series of satirical, tragic pictures focusing on the poor, the anguished and the lonely.

Next was the pink period (1904-6). A celebration of life, this period depicted young nudes and that great 20th century spectacle, the circus.

Picasso’s innovative bent lead him toward Cubism (rendering three-dimensions without perspective). The most critical step in creating this new school was probably taken with the completion of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907).

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 11 Hidden Secrets in Famous Works of Art (livescience.com)

 Rayo Withanage – An apology (telegraph.co.uk)

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Why religion is not going away and science will not destroy it

In 1966, just over 50 years ago, the distinguished Canadian-born anthropologist Anthony Wallace confidently predicted the global demise of religion at the hands of an advancing science: ‘belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as a result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge’. Wallace’s vision was not exceptional. On the contrary, the modern social sciences, which took shape in 19th-century western Europe, took their own recent historical experience of secularisation as a universal model. An assumption lay at the core of the social sciences, either presuming or sometimes predicting that all cultures would eventually converge on something roughly approximating secular, Western, liberal democracy. Then something closer to the opposite happened.

Not only has secularism failed to continue its steady global march but countries as varied as Iran, India, Israel, Algeria and Turkey have either had their secular governments replaced by religious ones, or have seen the rise of influential religious nationalist movements. Secularisation, as predicted by the social sciences, has failed.

To be sure, this failure is not unqualified. Many Western countries continue to witness decline in religious belief and practice. The most recent census data released in Australia, for example, shows that 30 per cent of the population identify as having ‘no religion’, and that this percentage is increasing. International surveys confirm comparatively low levels of religious commitment in western Europe and Australasia. Even the United States, a long-time source of embarrassment for the secularisation thesis, has seen a rise in unbelief. The percentage of atheists in the US now sits at an all-time high (if ‘high’ is the right word) of around 3 per cent. Yet, for all that, globally, the total number of people who consider themselves to be religious remains high, and demographic trends suggest that the overall pattern for the immediate future will be one of religious growth. But this isn’t the only failure of the secularisation thesis.

Scientists, intellectuals and social scientists expected that the spread of modern science would drive secularisation – that science would be a secularising force. But that simply hasn’t been the case. If we look at those societies where religion remains vibrant, their key common features are less to do with science, and more to do with feelings of existential security and protection from some of the basic uncertainties of life in the form of public goods. A social safety net might be correlated with scientific advances but only loosely, and again the case of the US is instructive. The US is arguably the most scientifically and technologically advanced society in the world, and yet at the same time the most religious of Western societies. As the British sociologist David Martin concluded in The Future of Christianity (2011): ‘There is no consistent relation between the degree of scientific advance and a reduced profile of religious influence, belief and practice.’

The story of science and secularisation becomes even more intriguing when we consider those societies that have witnessed significant reactions against secularist agendas. India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru championed secular and scientific ideals, and enlisted scientific education in the project of modernisation. Nehru was confident that Hindu visions of a Vedic past and Muslim dreams of an Islamic theocracy would both succumb to the inexorable historical march of secularisation. ‘There is only one-way traffic in Time,’ he declared. But as the subsequent rise of Hindu and Islamic fundamentalism adequately attests, Nehru was wrong. Moreover, the association of science with a secularising agenda has backfired, with science becoming a collateral casualty of resistance to secularism.

Turkey provides an even more revealing case. Like most pioneering nationalists, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish republic, was a committed secularist. Atatürk believed that science was destined to displace religion. In order to make sure that Turkey was on the right side of history, he gave science, in particular evolutionary biology, a central place in the state education system of the fledgling Turkish republic. As a result, evolution came to be associated with Atatürk’s entire political programme, including secularism. Islamist parties in Turkey, seeking to counter the secularist ideals of the nation’s founders, have also attacked the teaching of evolution. For them, evolution is associated with secular materialism. This sentiment culminated in the decision this June to remove the teaching of evolution from the high-school classroom. Again, science has become a victim of guilt by association.

The US represents a different cultural context, where it might seem that the key issue is a conflict between literal readings of Genesis and key features of evolutionary history. But in fact, much of the creationist discourse centres on moral values. In the US case too, we see anti-evolutionism motivated at least in part by the assumption that evolutionary theory is a stalking horse for secular materialism and its attendant moral commitments. As in India and Turkey, secularism is actually hurting science.

In brief, global secularisation is not inevitable and, when it does happen, it is not caused by science. Further, when the attempt is made to use science to advance secularism, the results can damage science. The thesis that ‘science causes secularisation’ simply fails the empirical test, and enlisting science as an instrument of secularisation turns out to be poor strategy. The science and secularism pairing is so awkward that it raises the question: why did anyone think otherwise?

Historically, two related sources advanced the idea that science would displace religion. First, 19th-century progressivist conceptions of history, particularly associated with the French philosopher Auguste Comte, held to a theory of history in which societies pass through three stages – religious, metaphysical and scientific (or ‘positive’). Comte coined the term ‘sociology’ and he wanted to diminish the social influence of religion and replace it with a new science of society. Comte’s influence extended to the ‘young Turks’ and Atatürk.

The 19th century also witnessed the inception of the ‘conflict model’ of science and religion. This was the view that history can be understood in terms of a ‘conflict between two epochs in the evolution of human thought – the theological and the scientific’. This description comes from Andrew Dickson White’s influential A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896), the title of which nicely encapsulates its author’s general theory. White’s work, as well as John William Draper’s earlier History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (1874), firmly established the conflict thesis as the default way of thinking about the historical relations between science and religion. Both works were translated into multiple languages. Draper’s History went through more than 50 printings in the US alone, was translated into 20 languages and, notably, became a bestseller in the late Ottoman empire, where it informed Atatürk’s understanding that progress meant science superseding religion.

Today, people are less confident that history moves through a series of set stages toward a single destination. Nor, despite its popular persistence, do most historians of science support the idea of an enduring conflict between science and religion. Renowned collisions, such as the Galileo affair, turned on politics and personalities, not just science and religion. Darwin had significant religious supporters and scientific detractors, as well as vice versa. Many other alleged instances of science-religion conflict have now been exposed as pure inventions. In fact, contrary to conflict, the historical norm has more often been one of mutual support between science and religion. In its formative years in the 17th century, modern science relied on religious legitimation. During the 18th and 19th centuries, natural theology helped to popularise science.

The conflict model of science and religion offered a mistaken view of the past and, when combined with expectations of secularisation, led to a flawed vision of the future. Secularisation theory failed at both description and prediction. The real question is why we continue to encounter proponents of science-religion conflict. Many are prominent scientists. It would be superfluous to rehearse Richard Dawkins’s musings on this topic, but he is by no means a solitary voice. Stephen Hawking thinks that ‘science will win because it works’; Sam Harris has declared that ‘science must destroy religion’; Stephen Weinberg thinks that science has weakened religious certitude; Colin Blakemore predicts that science will eventually make religion unnecessary. Historical evidence simply does not support such contentions. Indeed, it suggests that they are misguided.

So why do they persist? The answers are political. Leaving aside any lingering fondness for quaint 19th-century understandings of history, we must look to the fear of Islamic fundamentalism, exasperation with creationism, an aversion to alliances between the religious Right and climate-change denial, and worries about the erosion of scientific authority. While we might be sympathetic to these concerns, there is no disguising the fact that they arise out of an unhelpful intrusion of normative commitments into the discussion. Wishful thinking – hoping that science will vanquish religion – is no substitute for a sober assessment of present realities. Continuing with this advocacy is likely to have an effect opposite to that intended.

Religion is not going away any time soon, and science will not destroy it. If anything, it is science that is subject to increasing threats to its authority and social legitimacy. Given this, science needs all the friends it can get. Its advocates would be well advised to stop fabricating an enemy out of religion, or insisting that the only path to a secure future lies in a marriage of science and secularism.Aeon counter – do not remove

Peter Harrison

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.


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Philia – One of many loves

Brotherly Love Series via Wikipedia

Philia is a Greek term usually translated as brotherly or friendly love.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle says there are three types of philia:

  1. Love for what is of practical use
  2. Love for what is pleasing
  3. Love for the good

Aristotle is a powerful thinker but, unlike Plato, not a mystical one. And he himself realizes that his three types of philia are not watertight categories.

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Indigenous people invented the so-called ‘American Dream’

Lewis Borck, Leiden University and D. Shane Miller, Mississippi State University

When President Barack Obama created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the 2012 program that offered undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children a path into society, for a moment the ideals of the American Dream seemed, at least for this group, real.

We call these kids (many of whom are now adults) “Dreamers,” because they are chasing the American Dream – a national aspiration for upward economic mobility built on physical mobility. Fulfilling your dreams often means following them wherever they may lead – even into another country.

The Trump administration’s decision to cancel DACA and build a U.S.-Mexico border wall has endangered those dreams by subjecting 800,000 young people to deportation.

But the notion underlying both the DACA repeal and the wall – which is that “illegal” immigrants, most of them from Mexico, are stealing U.S. jobs and hurting society – reflects a profound misunderstanding of American history.

On Indigenous Peoples Day, it’s worth underscoring something that many archaeologists know: many of the values that inspire the American Dream – liberty, equality and the pursuit of happiness – date back to well before the creation of the U.S.-Mexico border and before freedom-seeking Pilgrim immigrants arrived at Plymouth Rock in 1620. They originate with native North Americans.

A Native American dream

The modern rendition of the American Dream can be traced back to 1774, when Virginia’s governor, John Murray, the fourth earl of Dunmore, wrote that even if Americans “attained Paradise, they would move on if they heard of a better place farther west.”

The actual term “American Dream” was popularized in 1931 by the businessman and historian James Truslow Adams. For him, its realization depended on not just being able to better oneself but also, through movement and human interaction, seeing your neighbors bettered as well.

The first peoples to come to the Americas also came in search of a better life. That happened 14,000 years ago in the last Ice Age when nomadic pioneers, ancestors to modern Native Americans and First Nations, arrived from the Asian continent and roamed freely throughout what now comprises Canada, the United States and Mexico. Chasing mammoth, ancient bison and the elephant-like Gomphothere, they moved constantly to secure the health of their communities.

The indigenous communities of the Americas knew none of these modern-day national borders.
USGS

A more recent example of the power of migration reappears about 5,000 years ago, when a large group of people from what is today central Mexico spread into the American Southwest and farther north, settling as far up as western North America. With them they brought corn, which now drives a significant part of the American economy, and a way of speaking that birthed over 30 of the 169 contemporary indigenous languages still spoken in the United States today.

The Hohokam

This globalist world view was alive and well 700 years ago as well when people from what is now northern Arizona fled a decades-long drought and rising authoritarianism under religious leaders. Many migrated hundreds of miles south to southern Arizona, joining the Hohokam (ancestors to modern O’odham nations) who had long thrived in the harsh Sonoran desert by irrigating vast fields of agave, corn, squash, beans and cotton.

When the northern migrants arrived to this hot stretch of land around the then-nonexistent U.S.-Mexico frontier, Hohokam religious and political life was controlled by a handful of elites. Social mechanisms restricting the accumulation of power by individuals had slowly broken down.

For decades after their arrival, migrants and locals interacted. From that exchange, a Hohokam cultural revolution grew. Together, the two communities created a commoners’ religious social movement that archaeologists call Salado, which featured a feasting practice that invited all village members to participate.

As ever more communities adopted this equitable tradition, political power – which at the time was embedded in religious power – became more equally spread through society. Elites lost their control and, eventually, abandoned their temples.

America’s egalitarian mound-builders

The Hohokam tale unearths another vaunted American ideal that originates in indigenous history: equality. Long before it was codified in the Declaration of Independence,, equality was enacted through the building of large mounds.

Massive earthen structures like these are often acts of highly hierarchical societies – think of the pyramids of the ancient Egyptians, constructed by masses of laborers as the final resting place of powerful pharaohs, or those of the rigid, empire-building Aztecs.

But great power isn’t always top-down. Poverty Point, in the lower Mississippi River Valley of what’s now Louisiana, is a good example. This massive site, which consists of five mounds, six concentric semi-elliptical ridges and a central plaza, was built some 4,000 years ago by hunter-fisher-gatherers with little entrenched hierarchy.

Poverty Point: a city built on cooperation.
Herb Roe/Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

Originally, archaeologists believed that such societies without the inequality and authoritarianism that defined the ancient Egyptian, Roman, and Aztec empires could not have constructed something so significant – and, if so, only over decades or centuries.

But excavations in the last 20 years have revealed that large sections of Poverty Point were actually constructed in only a few months. These Native Americans organized in groups to undertake massive projects as a communal cooperative, leaving a built legacy of equality across America’s landscape.

Haudenosaunee

The Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, offer a more modern example of such consensus-based decision-making practices.

These peoples – who’ve lived on both sides of the St. Lawrence river in modern-day Ontario and the U.S. Great Lakes states for hundreds, if not thousands, of years – built their society on collective labor arrangements.

They ostracized people who exhibited “selfish” behavior, and women and men often worked together in large groups. Everyone lived together in communal longhouses. Power was also shifted constantly to prevent hierarchy from forming, and decisions were made by coalitions of kin groups and communities. Many of these participatory political practices continue to this day.

The Haudenosaunee sided with the British during the 1776 American Revolution and were largely driven off their land after the war. Like many native populations, the Haudenosaunee Dream turned into a nightmare of invasion, plague and genocide as European migrants pursued their American Dream that excluded others.

Native Americans at Standing Rock

The long indigenous history of rejecting authoritarianism continues today, including the 2016 battle for environmental justice at Standing Rock, South Dakota.

There, a resistance movement coalesced around a horizontally organized youth group that rejected the planned Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Native American pioneers continue to fight for the same ideals that inspire the American Dream, including equality and freedom.
John Duffy/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA

The movement centered on an environmental cause in part because nature is sacred to the Lakota (and many other indigenous communities), but also because communities of color often bear the brunt of economic and urban development decisions. This was the indigenous fight against repression and for the American Dream, gone 21st century.

Redefining the North American dream

Anthropologists and historians haven’t always recognized the quintessentially Native American ideals present in the American Dream.

In the early 19th century, the prominent social philosopher Lewis Henry Morgan called the Native Americans he studied “savages.” And for centuries, America’s native peoples have seen their cultural heritage attributed to seemingly everyone but their ancestors – even to an invented “lost” white race.

America’s indigenous past was not romantic. There were petty disputes, bloody intergroup conflicts and slavery (namely along the Northwest Coast and American Southeast).

But the ideals of freedom and equality – and the right that Americans can move across this vast continent to seek it out – survive through the millennia. Societies based on those values have prospered here.

The ConversationSo the next time a politician invokes American values to promote a policy of closed borders or selfish individualism, remember who originally espoused the American Dream – and first sought to live it, too.

Lewis Borck, Archaeologist, Leiden University and D. Shane Miller, Prehistoric Archeologist, Mississippi State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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Why the world needs more global citizens

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Former U.S. President Barack Obama and Prince Harry watch wheelchair basketball at the Invictus Games in Toronto on Friday, Sept. 29. Obama spoke earlier in Toronto about the importance of global citizenship. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Donovan

Paul Sherman, University of Guelph-Humber

Global citizenship is trending upward.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei received a global citizenship award in Toronto this week, and on Friday, former U.S. President Barack Obama spoke in the Canadian city about the importance of global citizenship.

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And recently, tens of thousands of New Yorkers attended the annual Global Citizen Festival in Central Park.

Now, before you react to this article’s headline and rail against yet another apparent plea for the creation of an elitist one-world government, give your typing fingers a rest.

I will state at the onset that this piece neither advocates for an elitist perspective, nor a single planetary authority. What it does argue for is the cultivation of a global citizenship sensibility, particularly in the education of our university and college students.

Internationalization in higher education

Internationalization policies and practices within the higher education sector have ostensibly been fuelled by pressures on colleges and universities to better prepare students for the effects of globalization.

Recent research suggests that university graduates are increasingly required by prospective employers to have the so-called soft skills necessary for working in global environments.

A university education offers an important pathway that hopefully leads to gainful employment after graduation. But including global citizenship within educational curricula is an investment that can produce dividends far greater than simply securing a job.

Global citizenship: What it is and what it isn’t

Global citizenship is a concept that has produced varied and contested understandings, not the least of which is the argument that the privilege of legal status inherently associated with national citizenship is not a feature of global citizenship.

British Prime Minister Theresa May recently opined: “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.”

Notwithstanding this sort of misguided criticism, there’s a general consensus that the term orients towards recognizing the interconnectedness of life, respecting cultural diversity and human rights, advocating global social justice, empathizing with suffering people around the world, seeing the world as others see it and feeling a sense of moral responsibility for planet Earth.

Musician Ai Weiwei recently received a global citizenship award in Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Global citizenship usually involves three dimensions — awareness (of self and others), responsibility and participation. The enlightened global citizen understands that there doesn’t have to be a tension between a nationalistic sense of duty and a moral obligations to the rest of the world.

Global leaders who state otherwise are mired in old and tired ways of competing for the planet’s resources and securing the welfare of its inhabitants and ecosystems. Global citizenship offers hope for embracing a mindset that can ensure the future sustainability of our planet, and all of its living forms.

Global citizenship and Soka education

Soka, or value-creating, education was formulated in the 1930s, against a backdrop of Japanese industrialization, expansionism and increased militarism.

Founder Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944) vehemently opposed the aims of Japanese nationalist education at that time, which was ostensibly used as a platform for political indoctrination and support of Japan’s war efforts.

Makiguchi believed that education was the key to ultimately securing individual and societal wellbeing, or happiness. And that happiness was discovered through a transformational process of creating value through one’s everyday interactions in society.

Makiguchi’s vision was advanced in succession by his protégé, Josei Toda (1900-1958), and Toda’s protégé, Daisaku Ikeda.

Ikeda is president of the lay-Buddhist global peace movement, Soka Gakkai International. He founded the Soka Education network of schools around the world. Ikeda’s vision for these schools is deeply connected to global citizenship, aiming to nurture global citizens who will contribute to society and help strengthen the foundations of peace.

My case study research of Soka University Japan (SUJ) reveals an educational environment that cultivates global awareness, global citizenship identity and pro-social values.

Big Sean performs at the 2017 Global Citizen Festival in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in New York. The festival aims to end extreme poverty through the collective actions of global citizens. (AP Photo/Michael Noble Jr.)

Two interview participants’ quotes from my research highlight the synergies created at SUJ between education for global citizenship and the prospect of societal wellbeing:

  1. “Cultivating a feeling of concern for the welfare of others is considered an extremely important part of Soka education, of humanism. I think the otherness, of connecting one’s happiness with the happiness of others, is a part of it.”
  2. “The wellbeing, happiness and betterment of society are possible when you can think from the perspective of not just yourself but you as a member of this world. In other words, society doesn’t become happy on its own.”

Humanitarian competition

Makiguchi’s Soka education principles for promoting a peaceful and harmonious world are well-aligned with a global citizenship perspective. Although never stepping foot off his native Japanese soil, Makiguchi was deeply concerned for the well-being of all people and for future generations. His insightful treatise on how countries should best cooperate for the collective good of humankind gives a clear sense of the promise and virtues of global citizenship.

In 1903, Makiguchi published his book, The Geography of Human Life, which contains his ideas on the nature of competition. He suggested that competition for survival is common to all species, and that major forms of competition have changed over time in line with changes to natural and social environments.

Makiguchi argued that nations have variously used strategies of economic, military, and political competition to maintain control of society.

He speculated that a fourth type of competition — in the arena of moral character — would evolve to guide international relations in the other three realms.

Labelling this form of competition as “humanitarian,” Makiguchi states that it aspires to: “…a goal of wellbeing and protection of all people, including oneself but not at the increase of self interest alone. In other words, the aim is the betterment of others and in doing so, one chooses ways that will yield personal benefit as well as benefit to others.”

He adds: “It is a conscious effort to create a more harmonious community life, and it will take considerable time for us to achieve.”

Competition that is based on humanitarian principles and practices fits with a global citizenship perspective.

The ConversationI believe there’s an important place for these principles in the curricula of higher education as we look to cultivate future generations of global citizens who can ensure the harmonious survival of planet Earth.

Paul Sherman, Program Head, Family & Community Social Services, University of Guelph-Humber

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


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Why the Nobel Peace Prize brings little peace

Ronald R. Krebs, University of Minnesota

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, an advocacy group that has worked to draw attention to their “catastrophic humanitarian consequences.”

Every year, the winners of the Nobel Prizes are announced to great fanfare. And none receives more scrutiny than the Nobel Peace Prize.

With good reason. The other Nobel Prizes are given to people who have already changed our world – for their remarkable accomplishments. But, in the case of the Nobel Peace Prize, the hope of the Nobel Committee is to change the world through its very conferral. It, therefore, rewards aspiration more than achievement.

Francis Sejersted, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee from 1991-1999, once noted with pride the Nobel Peace Prize’s political ambitions:

“The Committee also takes the possible positive effects of its choices into account [because] … Nobel wanted the Prize to have political effects. Awarding a Peace Prize is, to put it bluntly, a political act.”

So, has the Nobel Peace Prize changed the world?

Expecting the prize to bring world peace would be an unfair standard to apply. However, my research shows that the winners and their causes have rarely profited from the award. Even worse, the prize has at times made it harder from them to make the leap from aspiration to achievement.

History of the peace award

The Nobel Peace Prize was first awarded in 1901, five years after Alfred Nobel’s death. Nobel’s will defined peace narrowly and focused on candidates’ accomplishments: The prize was to be awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

The committee initially remained true to Nobel’s charge. Between 1901 and 1945, over three-quarters of the prizes (33 of 43) went to those who promoted interstate peace and disarmament.

Since the Second World War, however, less than one-quarter of the prizes have gone to promoting interstate peace and disarmament. Just seven of the 37 winners since 1989 fall into this category. Another 11 awards have sought to encourage ongoing peace processes.

But many of these processes had borne little fruit at the time or still had a long road ahead. Consider that three of the most prominent winners in this category were then Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Nonetheless, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is today in a coma.

Perhaps for this reason, in the last decade, the committee has given just two awards to encourage peace processes. In 2008 Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his various achievements in Namibia, Kosovo and Aceh. In 2016, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos was honored with the Nobel in the hope that the prize would help push through his peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels, even though a popular referendum had just rejected it, and thereby end his country’s half-century-long civil war.

The striking change since the 1970s, and especially since the end of the Cold War, has been the Nobel Peace Prize’s growing focus on promoting domestic political change.

Albert Luthuli, winner of the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize. AP Photo

Between 1946 and 1970, the prize was awarded just twice to dissidents and activists like the South African leader Albert Luthuli, who led a nonviolent struggle against apartheid in the 1960s, and the American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.. Between 1971 and 1988, such figures received the prize five times. Between 1989 and 2016, more than 40 percent of all winners fell into this category.

The rate has been even higher in the last decade: 57 percent of Nobel Peace Prize laureates since 2007 have been activists and advocates for equality, liberty and human development like educating women and stopping child labor.

These are admirable values. But their connection to interstate, and intrastate, conflict is indirect at best and tenuous at worst.

Does it bring global attention to issues?

The Nobel Peace Prize’s defenders insist that the prize works in subtle but perceptible ways to advance the winners’ causes. They say it attracts media attention, bolsters the winners and their supporters, and even focuses international pressure.

But there’s little evidence that the Nobel Peace Prize brings sustained global attention.

First of all, in many instances it is hard to tell whether the prize has made any difference, because the media glare was already intense. For example, in 2005, when the committee honored the International Atomic Energy Agency and its director general, Mohammed El Baradei, nuclear proliferation was already of great concern. In other cases – such as South Africa’s transition from apartheid, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the troubles in Northern Ireland – the prize made little noticeable difference to international media coverage.

It is true that in those few cases where coverage was not already strong, there have been occasional successes. For instance, I found that the committee’s decision to hand the award to Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991 did draw attention to the plight of Myanmar.

But, in general, my research found little evidence that winning the Nobel Peace Prize boosts international media coverage of the winner’s cause beyond the short run.

Putting activists in peril

Of greater concern is that, when the Nobel Peace Prize goes to promote political and social change – as it has so often in recent decades – it can have very real and detrimental effects on the movements and causes it celebrates.

Powerful authoritarian regimes will not liberalize just because the Nobel Committee has chosen to honor a dissident. This is not because regimes dismiss it as a silly award given out by international do-gooders. In fact, they take it very seriously. Fearing that domestic activists would take heart, they have ramped up repression, shrunk the space for political opposition and cracked down harder than ever.

This is what happened in Tibet and Myanmar after the Dalai Lama and after Aung San Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and 1991, respectively. Similarly, the Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi has been forced to lived in exile in Britain since 2009. In China, the peace award did not make the release of the dissident Liu Xiaobo from prison more likely.

The same is true when it comes to social change. Patriarchal societies, with their deeply entrenched gender roles, will not change just because some people in the West think they should and to that end name a women’s rights activist a Nobel laureate.

What’s at stake?

The Nobel Committee’s intentions are honorable, but the results, I argue, can be tragic. The award raises the spirits of reformers, but it also mobilizes forces that are far greater in opposition.

Every October, many the world over hail the Nobel Committee for its brave and inspired choice. But it is the truly brave activists on the ground who are left to bear the consequences when anxious leaders bring the state’s terrible power down on them.

And what happens when the Nobel Peace Prize actually helps to promote political change? As state counsellor (prime minister) of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi has presided over the bloody persecution of the Rohingya and a swiftly mounting international refugee crisis. The admired dissident has, in power, turned out not to be so great a promoter of peace and tolerance.

The ConversationThe Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s choices have been noble – but, as my research suggests, also sometimes naïve.

Ronald R. Krebs, Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in the Liberal Arts and Professor of Political Science, University of Minnesota

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to anti-nuclear campaign group (wbrz.com)

 Rohingya crisis: 365,000 sign petition calling for Aung San Suu Kyi to be stripped of Nobel Peace Prize (telegraph.co.uk)

 The Iran nuclear deal has been slammed by Trump but the people behind it could win a Nobel Peace Prize (nationalpost.com)

 Here’s everything you need to know about ‪‪Kazuo Ishiguro,‬ who just won the ‪Nobel Prize in Literature (businessinsider.com)

 ‘Liquid’ Cats and Old Men’s Big Ears: Humorous Research Abounds at the Ig Nobels (livescience.com)

 Nobel in physiology, medicine awarded to three Americans for discovery of ‘clock genes’ (thegazette.com)

 Scientists won the Nobel Prize for detecting gravitational waves – here’s why that matters (businessinsider.com)

 U.S. astrophysicists win 2017 Nobel Physics Prize for gravitational waves (rappler.com)

 The anti-nuclear campaign group ICAN has won the Nobel Peace Prize (fastcompany.com)

 Brandeis duo part of U.S. trio awarded Nobel Prize (bostonherald.com)


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Theology Of Religions: Pluralism, Inclusivism, Exclusivism

English: Resurrection of Christ

Resurrection of Christ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Domenic Marbaniang

The term ‘theology of religion’ is to be understood here as the branch of Christian theology that attempts to theologically and biblically evaluate the phenomena of religion. Three important schools within this field are pluralism, inclusivism, and exclusivism. Each of them will be briefly examined here.

1. Pluralism

Pluralism is basically the belief that the world religions are true and equally valid in their communication of the truth about God, the world, and salvation. The chief expounder of this view is John Hick of Claremont Graduate School in California, who first propounded it in his book God and the Universe of Faiths (1973). His view is not different from the popular Hindu view capsulated in Krishna’s saying in the Bhagavadgita:

By whatsoever way men worship Me, even so do I accept them; for, in all ways, O Partha, men walk in My path. [IV.11]

This is the popular view that all religions lead to the same God and all ways lead to heaven. According to Hick, Christianity is not the one and only way of salvation, but one among several. To a pluralist such as Hick, Christianity is not the absolute, unique, and final way to God. While pluralists assert the validity of all religions, they also deny the finality of all religions. According to Hick, in the evolutionary scheme of things in which at isolated ages and places the early religions are succeeded by higher religions, it is the same message of God that comes distinctly to a particular group but as different from the others. Hick challenges the older view that Christ or Christianity must be seen at the center of religions. Rather, he says, God must be seen at the center of religions. The pluralistic contention is that all religions are fundamentally the same though superficially different.

‘The attraction of pluralism,’ says McGrath, ‘lies not in its claim to truth, which are remarkably elusive and shallow, but in its claim to foster tolerance among the religions.’ To an evangelical Christian, however, such pluralism only means the abolition of kerygmatic mission, i.e., the mission of evangelizing the world with the salvific gospel of Jesus Christ. However, the reasons for rejecting pluralism go beyond the cause of evangelization. Any sincere study of world religions expressly reveals that contrary to the pluralistic contention all religions look superficially the same but are fundamentally different. Each of them differs from the rest in its view of God, sin, salvation, death, and eternity. Obviously, the pantheistic notion of the world as God and the monotheistic notion of the world as creation of God are not the same. The only way to call them same is by jettisoning the notion of absolute truth itself; however, that would mean that no absolute statements about anything can be made, including the statement that all religions are the same.

Another point against pluralism is the counterfeit posture it assumes. Pluralism contends that it is different from exclusivism in that it accepts the validity of all religions. Thus, truth is both relativized and pluralized. However, one basic feature of truth is exclusivity. Truth by nature excludes everything else contrary to it. Thus, every statement in order to be meaningful must exclude all its opposite. Thus, pluralism by contending the validity of all religions against the segregated contention of each to validity excludes all other views contrary to it. For example, it excludes the view that ‘all religions are not true.’ Therefore, though assuming the form of pluralism, it is none other than a variant of exclusivism itself.

2. Inclusivism

Inclusivism is the belief that God is present in non-Christian religions to save the adherents through Christ. The inclusivist view has given rise to the concept of the anonymous Christian by which is understood an adherent of a particular religion whom God saves through Christ, but who personally neither knows the Christ of the Bible nor has converted to Biblical Christianity. This position was popularized by the Roman Catholic theologian, Karl Rahner (b. 1904).

One important issue that Rahner raises is about the salvation of those who have never had the opportunity to listen to the gospel Jesus Christ. To Rahner, then, people can be saved apart from allegiance to the Christian church. It is God in Christ who reaches out to the individual in his own personal religious history to same him. Rahner used the term ‘anonymous’ to denote people who experience the grace of God in Christ regardless to what religion they belong to. Inclusivism is based on two axioms: the first is that salvation is through Christ alone, the second is that God wills the whole world to be saved. Consequently, God saves people through Christ alone; however, he makes this possible through ways that extend to all humanity.

To Rahner, a non-Christian religion is a lawful religion for until its followers have a Christian witness it is a means by which non-Christians gain a right relationship with God. Also, the religion is included in God’s plan of salvation which God has ordained for the communication of His grace.

Inclusivism has a great appeal to people because of its sympathetic approach to religion. However, it ignores the fact of ungodly elements within religions. It would only be a contradiction in terms to conceive of a God who reveals that he is against idolatry and at the same time assert that he saves a person in his worship of idols. Jesus said it is by knowing the truth that one is liberated. When the apostles spoke of salvation by the name of Jesus, they never meant that people could be saved within allegiance to the lordship of Jesus; on the contrary, they expressly meant that only by a voluntary submission to the Lord could one be saved. The will of God for salvation of all men in 1 Timothy 2: 4  is qualified by His desire that all of them will come to the knowledge of the truth for which Paul testifies as being appointed a preacher. Thus, the Bible is clear on the point that knowledge of Christ precedes the reception of saving grace in faith.

Inclusivism is seen as arrogantly exclusivist, if seen from the perspective of other religions. It tells that Hindus are not saved by their dharma, and Muslims are not saved by their works, but all are saved unaware by Christ. This not only proves that the salvation doctrine of all other religions are false but also that people are not saved because of following the religious way of their religion. This is something like saying that the neighbor is living by my money though it is he who earns his livelihood and lives by it. The claim is unwarranted. Finally, Christ assumes a nebulous and abstract character and personal commitment to the historical Christ almost loses soteriological value as can be seen in the case of M. M. Thomas’ Christ-centered syncretism. Therefore, inclusivism cannot be accepted as Biblically warranted.

3. Exclusivism

Exclusivism is the theological position that holds to the finality of the Christian faith in Christ. The finality of Christ means that there is no salvation in non-Christian religions. Notable among the exclusivists of this century are Samuel Zwemer, Hendrik Kraemer, and Lesslie Newbigin.

Based on the Aristotelian concept of truth as one and not many, exclusivists regard all other religious claims as false and invalid since the Christian revelation is accepted as true. Exclusivists hold that salvation is through Christ alone. It is through a personal experience of commitment to Christ that one receives assurance of salvation. The non-believers cannot receive such assurance since they are neither aware of the uniqueness of Christ neither do they acknowledge His lordship. The exclusivist begins with the Bible as the source of all knowledge about spirituality and salvation. The Bible is the criterion of all religious truth. The Bible relates the history of redemption, gives a foundation to personal faith, is a guidebook of the Christian community, and tells us of the future of the world that links up all history, life, and service with meaning and purpose. Exclusivism, thus, establishes the uniqueness and identity of Christianity among world religions. Such exclusivism can take either an extremist or a moderate viewpoint. The extremist view regards all non-Christian religions as demonic and enemies of Christian truth. On the other hand, the moderate view sees some non-Christian religions as containing elements whereby a dialogue with them can be initiated. However, all exclusivists in general agree that salvation is exclusively only through Christ and received by a personal commitment to the Lord.

An exclusivist view is inevitable in any dialogue of truth. As has been seen, neither the pluralist nor the inclusivist could avoid being exclusivist at some point. Truth by nature is exclusive and any claim to truth is exclusive. The only way to deny exclusiveness of Christ is to deny the veracity of the Bible. The exclusivist view rightly sees the exclusiveness of the Bible in its proclamation of Christ as the only way of salvation. However, at the same time, it must be affirmed that the Bible also speaks of God involved in the history of the nations. Therefore, it must not be thought non-Christian religions are totally devoid of virtue. Thus, though being very vociferous in his attacks on Hinduism, Nehemiah Goreh could say that ‘Most erroneous as is the teaching of such books as the Bhagvadgita, the Bhagvata, etc., yet they have taught us something of ananyabhakti (undivided devotedness to God), of vairagya (giving up the world), of namrata (humility), of ksama (forbearance), etc., which enables us to appreciate the precepts of Christianity.’

Thus, of the various schools of approach to the study of religion, theologically speaking, moderate exclusivism proves to be the best, since it neither distorts the meaning of truth, as pluralism does, nor forces itself over the other religions, as inclusivism does, but remains true to its source of doctrine, viz. the Bible.

© Domenic Marbaniang, 2007

About the Author

Dean of Post-Graduate Studies, Professor of Theology, Religions, and Missions, Author, Editor of Theological Journal, and Pastor

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