Radio Four Reith lecture gives a progressive view of religion
Scriptures are not as immutable as believers seem to think, says Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah in his first Reith lecture.
This lecture, delivered today at the LSE in London, seemed to be making three points.
1. Religious identity is based less around scripture than believers commonly claim. Religious groups are equally if not more defined by their practices and their community. It is frequently the case that these customary and community influences are the drivers of belief.
2. All religions interpret their scriptures through the prism of their social environment and the particular needs of their time. This is equally true of fundamentalists. When you ‘quote the book’ keep in mind that you have first filtered and interpreted it in line with your predisposition.
3. Truth may exist but our understanding of it should always be contingent on the possibility that experience will teach us otherwise. Without this perspective, we become trapped in our own discourse. He quoted the allegory expressed by Sir Richard Burton, a 19th century traveller who visited Mecca. “Truth is the shattered mirror strewn in myriad bits, while each believes his little piece the whole to own”.