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The effect of 9/11 on the perception of religion

The effect of 9/11 on the perception of religion

Cathy Grossman of USA Today is covering Templeton-Cambridge seminars on Science and Religion convened by the Templeton Foundation. A recent article focuses on a presentation by R. Scott Appleby, a Catholic scholar at the University of Notre Dame, who who directs, “Contending Modernities,” a program examining the interaction of Catholic, Muslim and secular forces in modern world.


Among the effects that the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011 on the perception of religion, Appleby numbers the following:

Religion is now being treated with more depth and sophistication — by media, government and academia. There’s new recognition that believers are “not all pathological or irrational or crazy. We see more nuance now. And we see that people are making a conscious and reasoned choices to hold on to faith.

“Islam has been put in the spotlight” with consequences to the good, such as the Common Word document by Muslim scholars addressed to the Catholic Church, and to the bad, such as the “new McCarthyism” of fear and anger toward Muslims. Appleby cites new initiatives around the world in serious interfaith, interreligious dialog and collaboration.

There’s a new interest in examining the structural and substantive ways that “healthy” religion is working in the world for promoting peace and social justice and defeating poverty and disease. The world’s challenges have to be met collectively and cannot be resolved with the faith communities.

(editor’s note: I suspect there is a typo here, and he said challenges can’t be met without the faith communities.)

Grossman also examines the impact of the attacks on the practice of religion, and the lives of religious people.

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Benedict Varnum

For those interested in a pretty serious academic and historical engagement, the best book I’ve read in the last year has easily been Michael Allen Gillespie’s “Theological Origins of Modernity.” He starts it off with a description of how two events (the fall of the Berlin wall and the attacks of 9/11) have shaped our sense of human possibility, then uses that as a platform to invite us into a very deep investigation of where we’ve “put” the attributes of God from the Reformation on. VERY good insights.

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