Earlier both sex and sexuality were used to be seen as highly private, while for most of the history of the world religion was seen as a public matter, says Tariq Modood.
“Today no one would say, ‘keep your sexual identity at home or in the club’, but we feel able to say ‘please don’t bring your religion into our space’,” a major newspaper quoted him as saying.
Professor Modood is one of the several public intellectuals participating in a four-day lecture series titled ‘Faith and Culture: the Politics of Belief’ at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, starting from Thursday night.
“To say to religious people, ‘you can’t argue your point of view in the public square or can only do so if you don’t mention the Bible or Koran or Jesus or Muhammad’, is like saying to Marxists, ‘you can’t mention Marx’ or to liberals, ‘don’t mention John Stuart Mill’. It’s deplorable,” he said.
Australian philosopher Rai Gaita, who is curating the series, said that it was the result of an indirect response to the “fervent proselytising” of the New Atheists (such as Richard Dawkins) who sought to remove religion from the public arena.
“A lot of religious people feel their positions have been parodied - they couldn’t recognise themselves in the descriptions offered by the New Atheists. These people should have a voice,”he said.
“We live in a culture that has a strong religious tradition. It’s very hard for people who are reasonably self-aware to disentangle the deepest sources of their belief. I want to explore to what degree our beliefs really are embedded in religious roots and - if we are not religious, as I am not - to what extent they can be transplanted,” he said.
Professor Modood said that Europe had rising numbers of what he termed as ‘secular Christians’.
He also revealed that Religion had been strongly declining in Europe for a century but the past 10 years had brought some reversal.