Courtyard of the Gentiles Goes to Sweden

Cardinal Ravasi to Debate Fundamental Questions

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By Natalia Martone

ROME, SEPT. 12, 2012 (Zenit.org).- “What would become of us without the help of what does not exist?”, was the question that Paul Valery asked in 1928 in his Brief Letter on Myths. 

This Thursday and Friday, the Courtyard of the Gentiles -- a space of encounter and dialogue between believers and non-believers, established by the Pontifical Council for Culture, headed by Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi -- will meet in a new session of dialogue in Stockholm, Sweden. The main topic will be the thorny question that is at the center, perhaps, of the debates between believing humanists and atheists: “the world with or without God.”

The encounter has been well received by the main figures of the Lutheran confession, such as Antje Jackelen, professor at the University of Lund and bishop of that city.

The choice of the venue is a clear sign of its importance. Sweden is itself a country in which secularization is very strong and is a society based on the concept that the individual prevails over the community. More than 60% of the population state that they are atheists, and religion is regarded as belonging to the private sphere.

In Sweden secularization has gone hand in hand with scientific and technological progress. In many countries, this scientific evolution is accompanied by an increasingly widespread phenomenon, which Jacques Ellul has called “moral sliding,” namely, the typical tendency of the technological society to accept technological innovations without a consideration of their ultimate worth or danger.

It is an historical process that, ultimately, has profound roots which lead to thinking of religion as a subjective experience and not as a collective sentiment to be shared.

Two days of dialogue will be held between Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, Goerg Klein, professor and writer, and Thomas Hammarberg, former Commissioner of the European Council for Human Rights.

With regard to the general topic ”The World With or Without God,” a number of questions will be debated: “What does it mean to believe or not believe? Is there an immaterial world? What is man? It is said that religion imposes its values on non-believers. But doesn’t the secular society try to impose its own? Does religion improve the world or make it worse?

In subsequent days the interventions in the event will be available on the social channels of the Courtyard of the Gentiles through Google and YouTube, as well as in the Courtyard TV section of the home page.

The following meeting of the Courtyard of the Gentiles will be held at Assisi on October 5-6. Among the guests is the President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano.

For additional information (in Italian and French) go to: www.cortiledeigentili.com

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Natalia Martone is a Cultural Anthropologist, specialized in Ethno-Anthropological Disciplines. She is in charge of content on the Web site of the Courtyard of the Gentiles.