Monthly Archives: May 2007

¶ Helen Clark’s diplomacy

Prime Minister Helen Clark’s speech at the opening of the Asian Pacific Interfaith Dialogue in Waitangi was, of course, diplomatic. But, I believe, the diplomacy was aimed not only at our international guests but also at the local “interfaith” community.

All her references to the National Statement on Religious Diversity stressed equality of religion and belief – recognising the legitimacy of non-religious belief more than does the Statement itself. In fact she went as far as extending safety and security to “those of all faiths and beliefs” whereas the Statement mentions this only for “faith communities and their members”.

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¶ Blogs discussing religious diversity

I’ll list other blogs here which are currently discussing the National Statement on Religious Diversity. Could readers who know of others please add them in a comment, or use the contact form at the bottom, and I will try to keep the list up to date.

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¶ Destiny of Christian privilege?

Bishop Brian Tamaki’s press statements and his Destiny Church’s march on Waitangi are again promoting the demand for New Zealand to become a “Christian nation”. This term can be interpreted two ways:

  1. New Zealanders should perceive their country as Christian in terms of popular attitudes, beliefs and values;
  2. The Government should legally declare New Zealand a Christian Nation – recognising Christianity as the State Religion.

It’s possible that many New Zealanders do agree with statement 1 – believing that in some sort of way we can be described as a Christian country. In fact the NZ Herald claim that they received feedback indicating 4 to 1 in favour of such a claim. But of course, the reasons given varied a lot, from reference to our past, a desire for return to old values, reference to a “majority religion”, reference to a “de facto” status, dissatisfaction with the current moral climate, a fear that immigrants were going to impose their religions, etc. Such electronic polling, like letters to the editor, is unreliable as a survey of peoples views, but they do indicate that many people probably accept this claim.

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¶ Trends in religious belief in New Zealand

The results of the 2006 census were of concern to some New Zealand Christians because they showed that their religion (with 51% share) was barely holding on to their previous majority of adherents. Of even more concern was the trend shown by the last four census results strongly suggesting that their share will be below 50% within a few years. I personally am heartened by the results for those declaring no religion (currently 32%) which show a strong increase over time.

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¶ Religious diversity includes “non-believers”

A justification some supporters of the National Statement present is that it is restricted to religions, therefore its right that it was controlled by religious groups. And anyway, they did allow us non-religious people to make submissions.

However, the statement was about diversity of religious belief and it did have the purpose of addressing the problems of extremism in religious attitudes and attitudes towards religion (terrorism and hate crimes) . Surely, diversity of religious belief encompasses beliefs about the things usually (but not always) encompassed by religions – beliefs about origins, gods, ethical and social teachings. Atheists and groups with other non-theist beliefs (Buddhism, Humanism, Rationalism, etc.) are part of this diversity.

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¶ Science, art & pumpkins

I know that, like me, many people feel a strong spiritual awe about nature, the cosmos andGrowing Up in the Universe science – the evolution of our understanding and knowledge of reality. This is something we should be encouraging our kids to appreciate (The videos by Richard Dawkins Growing Up In The Universe do a great job in this respect).

Neil deGrasse Tyson is also another excellent communicator about this awe of nature and science. He is the Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

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¶ Religious Diversity Statement

There are concerns about the National Statement on Religious Diversity to be presented at the Asia Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue in Waitangi.

The Destiny Church have expressed their’s, centering around their desire for New Zealand to have Christianity as a state religion. They will campaign on that with hopefully no more success than their declared (prophesied?) bid to win the 2008 general election. There needs to be more intelligent debate on this question if their campaign gets any traction.

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¶ Should we teach creationism?

Have recently finished reading Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

Yes, I did find the language rather quaint but I was very impressed by the thoroughness of this work. Darwin seemed to anticipate all the arguments which might be used against his theory of development of species by natural selection and dealt honestly with each of them. Modern proponents of creationism should refer back to Darwin’s book where they would find answers disproving most of their arguments.

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