Green Values, Religion & Secularism – Review

Author: | Date: 6 December, 2016 | Category: Book Reviews | Comments: 1

Green Values, Religion & Secularism, Edited by Nuala Ahern and Erica Meijers, 2015. Green European Foundation, 174 pages, ISBN 978-90-72288-58-5.

Faced with the sad prospect of Brexit, this collection of interviews with 16 European environmental activists was painful to read. The dialogues opened with questions including a personal definition of religion; the interconnectedness of religious or secular values and political attitudes, the role of religion in the public forum, conflicts between fundamental rights such as the freedom of religion and the principle of sexual and gender equality, the role of Islam in Europe and whether religion is a source of inspiration or an obstacle for green politics.

The book is published with support from the European Parliament and reminds us of the important role Green Parties have in that Parliament and within individual countries. Some of us may ourselves be Green Party members, or be otherwise aware of how faith feeds into politics, and how political convictions challenge religion. Reading this book will probably stir you to think about that, both ways around. None of those interviewing or interviewed are from England or Wales though, and it is disappointing to see arguably much less interest in an interface between green politics and religion here, and to feel even more cut off from a European dialogue now. Alternatively, the book could act as an invitation to keep open the channels of communication with other Europeans who form a natural community with us, both because of our shared political perspective – which no referendum will simply undo – and through our warm ecumenical links between churches and with other faiths.

Within a common commitment to the Green political agenda, 16 disparate attitudes to religion are explored: Christian, Catholic, Orthodox and Reformed; Buddhist, Jewish and Islamic. Some fascinating answers were given to the opening question about how religion features for each of them and what they understand it to be. Personally, I warmed to John Barry in Northern Ireland who said that for him, “poetry is a portal to spirituality”, while Savas Comlek from Turkey made me blink when he described religion as “an ancient system of knowledge created as a defence mechanism against human beings’ existential and evolutionary pains”. Some have consciously detached from religion which they now view as rather toxic, especially where church life has retreated into conservative denialism, while others feel that religion can yet inspire and encourage their political commitment. Yet disturbingly the interviews hardly represent the churches as taking a leading role, despite Pope Francis and Laudato Si.

One shortcoming is that each of the 16 reports is too short to allow for much engagement with the issues raised.  However, the dialogue is opened up, and, as the editors say in conclusion: “within a Europe haunted by different crises … we have to know who we are … politics is not only about policies. Let us begin to tell each other the stories of where we come from and what we long for”.

Andrew Norman


Comments on "Green Values, Religion & Secularism – Review"

jean katimertzis:

April 10, 2017

Sounds like an interesting book.


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