AGORA-PANDORA

In ancient Greece the Agora was a public open space, used for markets and assemblies, to discuss and debate. Pandora, meaning the giver of all gifts, was entrusted a jar (commonly known as Pandora’s box) which she opened against permission and, in doing so, releasing all evil forces, leaving only hope inside the jar.

This is a think-tank that provides a platform to seek communication and debates on issues for anyone concerned with what is happening in the realm that touches on our civic freedom. Questions such as, whether our dream of open and liberal societies are under threat, and if yes, how can such still be realized under given threats and the demographic changes that western civilizations are confronted with. Two of our influential legacies are under scrutiny: the thought and behavior patterns, formed by influences that stem from either our Christian or our Secular Humanist mems, or from both. Secular Humanism often functioned in a rational, relativistic and evolving manner, opposing the Christian worldview. The purpose of this think-tank is primarily to exchange thoughts of how these influences have shaped western thinking and behaving, independently from whether an individual is a practicing Christian or Humanist. And, secondly, do these legacies still hold their ground in order to be relevant to today’s problems and challenges.

Although the views of practicing Christians are welcome, this is not about religious hope for a life in a hereafter, but in the “Here and Now“ for future generations inheriting our planet. Unlike Christians of fundamentalist persuasion, who may not want to separate life of the «Here and Now» from beliefs in a hereafter, the Christian liberal adherent of today’s mainstream Christianity will find that the boundaries between Secular Humanism and their worldview to be fluent. It is due to the influences of the thoughts that came out of the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment that present-day perception of what it means to be Christian has changed to a more humane one. Whilst fluent boundaries and common ground between liberal Christianity and secular Humanism are generally acknowledged, this is also an attempt to grasp what lies behind a reappearing mutual hostility towards each other. Whilst the Christian antipathy towards Secular Humanism is found in its disapproval of the humanist’s complacency without the need for a God (at least not in one, as to dogmatic definition), the humanist’s distaste for religion lies in religion’s inherent claim to hold answers to absolute and final truth, based on concepts, notions, perceptions, imaginations and visions, written in an epoch in which beliefs in myth and magic were prevalent.

Referring to the allegory of Pandora’s Jar, this blog aims to stimulate, provoke and search for what hope there still is for us as privileged citizens of liberal and open societies under present threats. Can Christianity and/or Rational Humanism still provide any feasible answers to today’s threats and challenges? Or are we now ready for a radical change of paradigm, leaving these legacies behind us? Are they no longer apt to provide answers to questions provoked by economic crisis’, de-industrialization of the western world, forced growth that lead to ecological crisis’, masses of displaced people due to war and climate change, multiculturalism, multi-religious societies, exploitation of animals, climate change, terrorism against our liberal values, our freedom and privilege of living in open societies and increasing political polarization? 

Do we have to accept the fateful notion that hope is withheld, as in Pandora’s jar, whilst destructive forces run wild? Or, referring to the Christian allegory, are we banned from the Garden of Eden while waiting for a better life to come in a hereafter? Or is hope still something that we can count on, not just wishfully, but realistically? What hope is there in our difficult times under the above-mentioned threats. Furthermore, can values, such as Christian love, especially the biblical command to love one’s stranger, respectively the Humanists’ allegiance to the Golden Rule, i.e. Emanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative and their support for Human Rights, prove themselves durable foundations under these given challenges? If yes, are we prepared to extend such privileges to people who did not live under regimes that granted to them such noble and ideal ethics, but came to us because they would also like to have a taste of it? Or was this our freedom indeed just one of our dreams, only enjoyed by a privileged minority?

Supporters and critics of both sides are welcome to take part in discussing issues, as long as opposite views are questioned and criticized on the level of the issue and not attacking their respective opponents in a hurtful and humiliating way. However, it must also be said that religion has been handled as fragile and touched with silk-gloves for too long. What applies to book reviewers, theater critics and politicians, who often express their critical opinions scornfully and are then praised for their sharp observations, reaping cheering applause for their hearty squabbling, is all too often perceived as aggressive hostility, when religion is being knocked as to content of its sacred books or its history.

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