Publicador de contenidos

Back to 15_5_23_ICS_religion

Ricardo-María Jiménez, Professor at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya and partner of project 'Public discourse' of ICS

Does religion have a place in public life?

Sat, 23 May 2015 13:08:00 +0000 Published in Diari de Tarragona

Religious phenomena in public life often give rise to intense debates. You may recall the referendum held in Switzerland in 2009 to ban the erection of minarets in mosques, or the European Supreme Court ruling in 2011 that upheld the Italian government on the presence of the crucifix in public schools or the banning of the burqa (over which there is debate as to whether or not it is a religious symbol) in public spaces in Catalan municipalities in 2010.

But it seems to me that we cannot reduce the religious phenomenon only to these macro-debates, forgetting other aspects of this phenomenon, which do not usually appear in the media, and which occur in daily life. Specifically, I am referring to facts related to the silent and beneficial influence of religion in public life such as those discussed in the article "the handkerchief salesman" by Álex Saldaña.

Peter Angelina, a Nigerian living in Seville, has been surviving by selling handkerchiefs at traffic lights for ten years. As his medical degree degree scroll is not validated, he starts studying at degree program and pays for his expenses partly with the money he earns from selling handkerchiefs. One day he starts a car near the traffic light where he spends a few hours a day, and from the roof of the car a briefcase falls to the ground. The briefcase contains 3,150 euros and checks worth 13,000 euros. Quite a penny. Peter, who is a Catholic, finds the money and turns it over to the police at submission because: "I can't keep something that isn't mine. God would not forgive me." Dr. Angelina made his small contribution in religious language to the public discussion and showed that life itself without the religious phenomenon would not be the same, also in a non-confessional state.

Habermas has asserted that religious concepts cannot be denied as a matter of principle their potential for truth, nor "can fellow citizens who believe be denied their right to make contributions in religious language to public discussions. Religion is not only part of public life, it is part of it. If we want to suppress it, we run the risk, as Alasdair MacIntyre points out, of disregarding an integrated and global vision of things.