Seeing the Spirit in all things

I write on the eve of a presentation to the European Parliament in Brussels of the article that inspired the foundation of FID. Our co-founder, Sadig Malki, and I wrote an article following September 11th that addressed the oxymoron of claiming there is only one God but my God is better than yours. The article examines systematically the ways in which cultures throughout history and all over the world have reduced their experiences of the divine to particular formulae, each claiming their formula of choice represents universal truth, and then insisting upon the superiority of their formula over all others.

Our ongoing attempts to grasp the infinite are the engine that has driven both scientific and artistic inquiry for millennia. It is natural that we should want to understand, for we are conscious beings. But our reductionism of the infinite to the knowable often ends up being a reductionism to the comfortable and familiar, and that diminishes us all.

Europe today is of course a largely secular environment, despite being shaped profoundly by the evolution of Christianity and its interplay with Judaism and Islam in particular. Europeans tend to pride themselves on also being shaped by a very rational, Cartesian educational system that at times elevates scepticism to a virtual obligation. There are some who insist with the vigor ot the Age of Reason that science and religion are antithetical. There are others who, deeply programmed by Christian traditions, are loathe to let go of an attachment to the idea of God’s existence, even though they have long since become blasé or indifferent to any active practice of religion. And there are, of course, many who practice their faith tradition quite fervently, but often in a somewhat insular way, as if defensive against the portential threat of its annihilation by the forces of secularism, and the dread of “Secular Humanism”.

When FID was founded over a decade ago, our mission statement proposed as the third point of our plan: “To educate leaders and people in policy-making positions in both the public and private sector, so that the prevailing models of cultural and religious domination can be replaced by mutual acknowledgement and cooperation for the common good.”

Sadig and I have been not only delighted by the genuine thirst shown by people in the European Parliament, but many others in positions of authority here in Brussels, who have received us with great warmth and enthusiasm.

Our thanks go out to all who have shown such support and interest, and may this be the fulfillment and the beginning of a new chapter in our work.