Whose God Is It? Religion in the US and Europe

On September 26,2006 in a discussion entitled “Whose God Is It? Religion in the United States and Europe,” The New Yorker’s European correspondent Jane Kramer debated the growing role of religion, or, in her words, “religious fanaticism,” in politics with Die Zeit staff writer Jan Ross. Taking the much commented upon speech of Pope Benedict XVI as her starting point, she noted how inquiry and dissent have come to be regarded as a kind of treason or “death-deserving apostasy,” not only in the Muslim world but in the US as well. In her discussion of the French veil law, which she said she supported, she argued that tolerance cannot be used to exempt people from a social contract. In her concluding remarks, she raised the question of technology and its effects on the spread of radicalism. While Kramer seemed somewhat wary of religion and its growing influence, Jan Ross questioned the secular ideal in Europe. Religious illiteracy, he argued, brings its own set of problems. He remarked that a strong religious identity is not in and of itself the cause of intolerance and noted that it is not in Catholic Bavaria where Muslims are beaten but in the formerly communist East Germany.

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