NORTHERN Ireland’s Culture Minister has called on the local Ulster Museum to put on exhibits reflecting the view that the world was made by God only several thousand years ago.
Nelson McCausland, a born-again Christian who believes that Ulster Protestants are one of the lost tribes of Israel, has written to the museum’s board of trustees urging them to reflect creationist and intelligent design theories of the universe’s origins.
The minister, a member of the Democratic Unionist Party, said the inclusion of anti-Darwinian theories in the museum was ”a human rights issue”.
Mr McCausland defended a letter he wrote to the trustees calling for anti-evolution exhibitions at the museum. He claimed around one-third of Northern Ireland’s population believed either in intelligent design or that the universe was created about 6000 years ago.
Mr McCausland denied he was trying to dictate the content of material on the origins of life to the Ulster Museum, saying he was merely calling for the museum to reflect the diversity of views on how the universe was created within the province.
His call was condemned by evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins. ”If the museum was to go down that road then perhaps they should bring in the stork theory of where babies come from. Or perhaps the museum should introduce the flat Earth theory.”
Mr McCausland’s party colleague and member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for North Antrim, Mervyn Storey, has been at the forefront of a campaign to force museums in Northern Ireland to promote anti-Darwinian theories.
Mr Storey, who has chaired the Northern Ireland Assembly’s education committee, believes in the theory that the world was created several thousand years ago, even though the most famous attraction in his constituency – the Giant’s Causeway – is, according to geological evidence, millions of years old.
Last year Mr Storey objected to notices at the causeway stating that the rock formation was about 550 million years old.
The belief that the Earth was divinely created in 4004 BC originates with the writings of another Ulster-based Protestant, Archbishop of Armagh James Ussher, in 1654.
World religions are threatened by forces both from within themselves and from the wider world, said Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, today.
Mr Blair, speaking at Georgetown University in the US for the Common Word conference of Muslim and Christian scholars, said the key to harmony in the 21st century was for these two faiths to “get on”.
Christians and Muslims represent about half the world’s total population between them.
Tony Blair said that many of the challenges facing the world today were similar to those that confronted Jesus and Mohammed, the founders of Christianity and Islam.
“Each was made to feel an outsider. Each stood out against the conventional teaching of the time. Each believed in the universal appeal of God to humanity. Each was a change-maker.”
But too often, he said, faith was abused to do wrong.
Faith was also under attack on both sides.
“We face an aggressive secular attack from without. We face the threat of extremism from within.”
Arguing that there was “no hope” from atheists who scorn God, he said the best way to confront the secularist agenda was for all faiths to unite against it.
He said: “Those who scorn God and those who do violence in God’s name, both represent views of religion. But both offer no hope for faith in the twenty first century.”
For the full text, visit: http://www.timescolumns.typepad.com/gledhill/
THIS YEAR the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin is celebrating a year of evangelisation. The project’s website notes that “evangelisation is . . . an essential mission of the church”.
Necessary, courageous, no doubt, but, one might well ask the question, “why now?”
A friend told me, several years ago, of a conversation he had with a prominent Irish bishop whose diocese had the first exposure of an abuse scandal. “With this, what time do you think I have left for evangelisation?” asked the forlorn pastor. But worse was to come.
In recent times, it can be argued, the Catholic Church in Ireland has reached the nadir of its long history on this island. This institution is paying the price for its past success and for the kind of clerical dominance that almost inevitably leads to arrogance and the abuse of power.
Is it entering a land of exile?
The Ryan report was horrendous. The damage done to the victims was incalculable, the effect on the morale and reputation of the church, and, I would suggest, much of the country, devastating.
“How did we come to this?” we ask. It reflected not only on the church but also on the whole of Irish society. This will be followed up by the report on clerical sexual abuse in the archdiocese of Dublin.
In the days following publication of the Ryan report, I was travelling on a train from Dublin to Tralee. Sitting opposite me were two elderly ladies, one going to visit her family, while the other was eventually joined by her sister, a retired religious in civil attire.
The conversation turned almost inevitably to Ryan. The two lay persons, both of whom had sisters who were religious, reacted largely as one might have expected from people of this generation and class.
There was a kind of uncomprehending anger towards the victims of abuse expressed in the most negative terms; a defence of the church, and those representing it; as well as an anger that was diffuse and directed at everybody and nobody, including the church. Above all there was a sense of confusion and loss.
These women, like many people today, struggled with the fact that the ecclesiastical institution, in grave difficulty, often reviled, had let them down.
While we have come to assume that young people have lost faith, this is not, of course, always the case. They continue their search for truth and for God.
A bond of trust has been so severely damaged that it is not clear whether it can ever be restored. While priests often receive generous support, they often sense distrust, even among their own family and friends.
And yet, this is the situation within which the church must carry out its mission. If we speak of contextual theology, a locus theologicus, it is within this context of vulnerability and weakness that we must start today. If we are to speak of evangelisation or re-evangelisation this is the locus where it must happen, for all those who present themselves as witnesses to truth.
POPE Benedict XVI is not entirely welcome here in the wake of the damning Ryan report, a survey found.
More than half of people surveyed do not want a second papal visit following the revelations in the report on child abuse.
An online survey by radio station Newstalk, in which 1,108 people took part, shows the scenes that greeted the late Pope John Paul II during the first papal visit 30 years ago are unlikely to be recreated.
Back in September 1979, schools and businesses shut as thousands of Catholics flocked to the Phoenix Park during the three-day tour of Ireland.
However, despite strong feeling about a papal visit, the survey showed that the Ryan report has had little impact on the public’s religious practices. Just 4pc said the report had changed their Mass-going habits.
In addition, 68pc of people said religious teaching in schools should not include details of clerical abuse.
There has been speculation that the Pope might come to Ireland this year to mark the 30th anniversary of the historic 1979 visit, but 52pc of the 1,108 surveyed between June 22 and June 25 said he should stay away.
Many interviewees in the internet poll felt he should apologise before a visit could take place, while others said that saying sorry would not make any difference.
“Until he condemns what happened and pays compensation for his vile colleagues’ actions, and helps this country prosecute them by handing over all documents in relation to abuse issues and the movement of priests, then he shouldn’t be allowed set foot in this country,” said one of the interviewees.
Another person said a visit might be an important gesture to reach out to the abused, but only if the perpetrators faced their guilt. Another said they had difficulty taking any authority from the Pope.
“I did not elect him; he is old, lives a sheltered life and does not have to worry about where his next meal is coming from,” he said. “I am not sure what he can do now to ease the victims’ suffering. The church is churning out ‘mea culpas’. I am not sure how his sorry would be any better.”
– Anne-Marie Walsh
Thanks to Matt for this one:
The Archbishop of Canterbury says the adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in the UK “seems unavoidable”.
Dr Rowan Williams told Radio 4’s World at One that the UK has to “face up to the fact” that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system.
Dr Williams argues that adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion.
For example, Muslims could choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt with in a Sharia court.
He says Muslims should not have to choose between “the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty”.
In an exclusive interview with BBC correspondent Christopher Landau, ahead of a lecture to lawyers in London on Monday, Dr Williams argues this relies on Sharia law being better understood.
At the moment, he says “sensational reporting of opinion polls” clouds the issue.