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Faith and Culture: The Politics of Belief

For full transcripts of all lectures plus audio and video of the events, visit our series archive.

A four-day lecture series from Thursday 14 to Sunday 17 June at BMW Edge, Federation Square.

A day or so after September 11, graffiti appeared on a wall in New York: ‘Dear God, save us from those who believe in you’. Despite the many-layered irony, the message is clear: temptation to murderous fanaticism may be intrinsic to religious belief. Since at least September 11, 2001, hostility to religious voices in politics has been an important reason why so many people throughout the world have embraced ‘the new atheism’. The words of the graffitist could serve as a rallying cry for its militant wing.

People who belong to the faiths most often under attack – Christians, Muslims and Jews – often do not recognise themselves in in the portraits that inform the hostility and condescension towards them. With the support of the Sidney Myer Fund, the Wheeler Centre is proud to present Melbourne’s first Faith and Culture Lecture Series.

Over four days this June, our speakers – philosophers and theologians, historians and writers, believers and non-believers – will consider what it can mean to be religious, and what role the voice of faith may legitimately have in the conversations of citizens in a multicultural, democratic state and in the community of nations.

Curated by celebrated moral philosopher and author Raimond Gaita, the Faith and Culture lectures will aim to do justice to the depth and difficulty of the issues under discussion. Seldom are the sources of our deepest moral, political, and spiritual commitments clear to us. They are mediated by historically deep traditions in which science, art, philosophy and theology have played large, sometimes cooperative, sometimes contesting, roles. Simplifying or edifying polemic will have no place in these lectures and the panel discussions that follow them. We are set on understanding and are confident that our attempts to achieve it will interest atheists, agnostics, people of faith and the many people whose lives have been enriched by religious traditions and art, but who are not believers.

In his letter of invitation to speakers, Gaita wrote: ‘I have chosen people whose authority to speak on these matters strikes me as undeniable. Their authority lies not only in the fact that they “know their subject”, but also in the seriousness and authenticity of their engagement with it.’

Programme hashtag: #FaithAndCulture

Watch Raimond Gaita’s introduction to the series:

This series was presented with the support of the Sidney Myer Fund.

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the Traditional Owners of the land on which the Centre stands. We acknowledge and pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their Elders, past and present, as the custodians of the world’s oldest continuous living culture.