Faith and Culture: The Politics of Belief
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Over four days, our 20 plus speakers – philosophers and theologians, historians and writers, believers and non-believers – will consider what it means to be religious, and what role the voice of faith may legitimately have in the conversations of citizens in a multicultural, democratic state and the community of nations.
On Sunday, two keynote lectures from international guests each consider challenges posed by – and to – faith in the building of modern communities. Their lectures will be followed by panel discussions that open up the conversation.
Bernard Avishai is the final keynote speaker of the Faith and Culture series, talking about Jewish identity in the Hebrew republic of Israel. He is one of the world’s most respected commentators about Israel and the Middle East conflict and has published on the subject in the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker, the Nation, Harpers and New York Times magazine.
Following his keynote address, Avishai will be joined by a panel of local writers and thinkers. The panel will include Geoffrey Brahm Levey, foundation director of the UNSW Program in Jewish Studies and Arnold Zable, president of the Melbourne Centre of International PEN. John Baker, a graduate of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and president of Ameinu Australia, a roof body for moderate Zionism, will be participatory chair.
For the full text of this lecture plus transcripts and recordings of the series, visit our Faith and Culture archive.
Bernard Avishai is one of the world’s most respected commentators about Israel and the Middle East conflict. He has published dozens of articles in the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker, the Nation, Harpers and New York Times magazine.
Johnny Baker is a Melbourne-based businessman who has held a number of leadership positions in the Melbourne Jewish community. A graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he is a past President of the Zionist Council of Victoria (1988-1994), Mount Scopus Memorial College (1994-2004) and is currently President of Ameinu Australia (a roof body for progressive Zionists), President of Australian Friends of Yad Vashem and a member of the AIJAC Editorial Committee.
Arnold Zable is a highly acclaimed novelist, storyteller and human rights advocate. His works include Scraps of Heaven, Violin Lessons, The Fighter, which was shortlisted for a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and a New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award, and his most recent work The Watermill. Zable lives in Melbourne.
Geoffrey Brahm Levey was the foundation director of the UNSW Program in Jewish Studies. He is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow in the School of Social Sciences. His current research is in contemporary political theory, with special reference to multiculturalism, ethnicity, religion, nationalism, and citizenship.
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.